National / Politics

Cabinet sees rise in approval rate to 48.3%

Kyodo, Staff Report

The public support rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rose 3.5 points to 48.3 percent, up from a similar survey in October, an opinion poll taken over the weekend showed Sunday.

Its disapproval rate, meanwhile, fell 0.8 point to 40.4 percent.

The results of the survey, conducted by Kyodo News, are good news for the Cabinet, which saw its numbers sink right after the Diet passed two publicly divisive security bills on Sept. 19.

The survey also found 79.7 percent of the public is afraid that terrorist incidents like the recent attacks in Paris might occur in Japan.

The nationwide telephone survey was conducted on Saturday and Sunday.

With the Upper House election looming next summer, Abe is trying to refocus his efforts from constitutional matters to the economy to woo disillusioned voters.

On Sunday, Abe attended a party meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads.

During his speech, Abe said little about his future intentions regarding further changes to the war-renouncing Constitution.

Instead, he focused primarily on economic and trade issues and called on the lawmakers to brace themselves for the election.

“We have to win the next year’s Upper House election,” Abe said during the festivities at a Tokyo hotel.

“By winning the election, let’s take a big step forward for the next 60 years (for the LDP),” he said.

About 3,000 people, including LDP Diet members, local assembly members, as well as Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi and Sadayuki Sakakibara, the head of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Japan’s most powerful business lobby, attended the ceremony.

In his speech, Abe briefly referred to the postwar Constitution as a document and outdated system whose existence came about during the U.S.-led Occupation, and said changing it has been a goal since the LDP was founded.

Abe has long called for revising the Constitution, in particular war-renouncing Article 9. He is pushing for the removal of legal restrictions that prevent the Self-Defense Forces from taking part in military operations abroad.

“We are the only party that can protect the lives of Japanese and their peaceful existence,” Abe said.

At a separate gathering Saturday with right-leaning LDP lawmakers, Abe asked for their support during the Upper House election to win more seats in the Diet, which will make it easier to push through more constitutional revisions.

“I want to ask for your help in the next year’s Upper House election” Abe said at the gathering of Sosei Nippon, an association of nationalistic LDP Diet members. Many of them are believed to be strong supporters of the prime minister.

Abe also emphasized that the public’s support is crucial for amending the Constitution.

To revise any Constitutional article, support of more than half of voters is required in a national referendum.

The LDP was created on Nov. 15, 1955, by merging two conservative parties, the Liberal Party and Japan Democratic Party. The party’s first leader was Ichiro Hatoyama. Abe is the LDP’s 25th president.