• Kyodo

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Despite victory in July’s Upper House election, 52.5 percent of respondents oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remaining leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party beyond his current term through September 2018, a poll showed Thursday.

Some 37.8 percent supported Abe remaining as LDP president after his second term ends, according to a telephone poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, Abe appointed as party secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai, who has been in favor of amending party rules so Abe can serve a third term. The rules currently limit the LDP president to two consecutive terms or six years.

As the ruling bloc led by the LDP scored a landslide victory in the July 10 House of Councilors election, expectations have been growing that Abe may seek to continue as party leader to remain prime minister, with Tokyo hosting the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

Asked about the possible change to party rules, Abe told a news conference Wednesday that he is “not considering it at all.”

The latest poll, conducted after Abe’s Cabinet reshuffle Wednesday that included the appointment as defense minister of a lawmaker known for her hawkish views, showed 41.3 percent of the public support Abe’s Cabinet reshuffle and changes in LDP leadership, while 34.2 percent do not.

In the third reshuffle since he returned as prime minister in December 2012, Abe kept eight of the previous Cabinet’s 19 members in their current roles, including his right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and Finance Minister Taro Aso.

As for the appointment as defense minister of Tomomi Inada, who is known for her rapport with Abe on security and foreign policy and has been outspoken on polarizing historical issues involving Asian neighbors, 43.0 percent said they do not support it, while 32.1 percent said they do.

Abe’s appointment of Inada stirred reaction in China and South Korea, which view her as a right-wing politician due partly to her regular visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted Japanese war criminals along with millions of war dead.

Ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle, Abe’s government approved an economic stimulus package of ¥28.1 trillion ($277 billion), focusing on infrastructure investment and enhanced welfare services with the aim of pulling Japan out of deflation.

The majority, 65.0 percent, said the new stimulus measures will not boost the economy, while only 21.0 percent said they will.

Support for Abe’s Cabinet, meanwhile, stood at 52.9 percent, almost unchanged from the previous poll in mid-July, with the disapproval rating standing at 30.9 percent, down from 34.7 percent.

Regarding the upcoming leadership race for the largest opposition Democratic Party, 31.1 percent said Renho, the deputy party president, deserves to be the next leader, followed by 11.3 percent for former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara.

Democratic Party chief Katsuya Okada said last week he will not run in the party’s leadership contest slated for September, taking responsibility for the main opposition party’s disappointing showing in the Upper House election.

The random-sampling surveyed voters across the country, with valid responses obtained from 1,008 people.

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