National / Politics

Support for Abe security bills slumps: survey

Kyodo, Staff Report

Some 56.7 percent of the public believe the security bills under deliberation in the Diet are unconstitutional and 29.2 percent do not, a survey said Sunday.

In the telephone survey conducted by Kyodo News over the weekend, 58.7 percent said they oppose the bills, up 11.1 points from the previous poll in May, and 27.8 percent said they support the legislation.

The survey covered 1,447 randomly selected households with eligible voters and drew valid responses from 1,016.

In the meantime, the public approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell again, slipping 2.5 points to 47.4 percent from the previous survey.

If enacted, the security laws would permit the Self-Defense Forces to defend allies under armed attack even if Japan itself is not being attacked — a U.N. right called collective self-defense that until last year was deemed banned by the Constitution.

They would also greatly increase the type of logistical support and peacekeeping operations the SDF can engage in overseas.

Earlier this month, three prominent legal scholars asked to testify to a Diet committee on the Constitution stated that the government’s security bills were unconstitutional. This tarred their validity and heavily embarrassed Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which had been confident one of the experts was on its side. Hundreds of other scholars later joined them.

The issue of collective defense is controversial because permitting its use would effectively bring Japan’s pacifist stance and “exclusively defense-oriented policy” since the war to an abrupt end.

The Abe administration hopes to have the bills passed this summer to effect the Cabinet’s decision to reinterpret— rather than formally amend — war-renouncing Article 9 in such a way that Japan will be able use collective defense without breaking the Constitution.

Still, 63.1 percent of the respondents expressed opposition to passing the bills during the current Diet session, compared with 26.2 percent who support it.

Some 84.0 percent do not think the Abe administration has explained the bills thoroughly enough to the public, and only 13.2 percent said they found its explanations sufficient.

The Abe administration has come under heavy questioning from opposition lawmakers about how it will protect SDF personnel who suddenly find themselves deployed overseas under Abe’s envisaged security framework.

In the latest poll, 73.1 percent said the legislation would increase the risk of the SDF being dragged into war, and 22.4 percent said they expect “no change.”

When asked about Abe’s upcoming statement to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, 53.4 percent said he should express “remorse” and an “apology” to the people of Asia for Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression.” About 33.6 percent opposed the idea.

The statement this summer is widely expected to come under intense scrutiny by China and South Korea, whose relations with Japan have been strained by differences in their perceptions of wartime history.

The latest poll also found that 59.6 percent were in favor and 36.5 percent against the Diet’s lowering of the voting age last week from 20 to 18. The passage of the legislation marked the first major change to Japan’s electoral system in nearly 70 years.

By party, Abe’s LDP was supported by 37.0 percent, down 1.4 point from the previous survey, while 10.1 percent, up 1.0 point, backed the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

A total of 36.9 percent said they were undecided and do not support any particular party.