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Opposition to Abe’s amendment quest hits 55%; support for Article 9 rewrite falls: survey

Kyodo, Staff Report

Some 54.8 percent of the public is opposed to revising the war-renouncing Constitution under Prime Minister Shinizo Abe, up 6.2 points from the previous survey taken in December, Kyodo News reported Sunday.

According to the survey, conducted by Kyodo for two days through Sunday, 33 percent of the respondents said they backed constitutional revision, Abe’s main political goal.

As for Abe’s proposal to legitimize the Self-Defense Forces in the supreme code’s Article 9, 52.7 percent of the people said they were opposed and 35.3 percent said they were supportive. In the November survey, 52.6 percent were opposed and 38.3 percent were supportive. This question was not asked in the December survey.

In May last year, Abe made a surprise announcement stating that it was his ambition to revise the Constitution by 2020 and that he wanted to explicitly define the role of the SDF in it.

Abe indicated during a New Year’s news conference that he would like to see the Diet initiate amendments to the supreme law by the end of the year. Any amendments proposed must eventually be approved by a simple majority of voters in a national referendum, after being approved by two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Diet.

But Abe’s goal was thrown into disarray by his Liberal Democratic Party’s historic defeat in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July, and a drop in his Cabinet’s support rate caused by his alleged cronyism scandals.

Still, Abe’s support rate is inching up, the survey said.

The Cabinet’s support stood at 49.7 percent, up 2.5 points from the last survey in December. Those who don’t support Abe’s administration stood at 36.6 percent, it said.

Asked whether they want Abe to be re-elected in the LDP’s presidential election in September, those who said no (47.5 percent) slightly topped those who said yes (45.2 percent), according to the survey.

The nationwide telephone survey also showed that 49.0 percent of the respondents favor immediately halting nuclear power plants in Japan, an initiative championed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose remarks still carry weight. Some 42 percent oppose immediate shut downs.

On defense policy, 46.7 percent oppose the government’s plan to acquire long-range cruise missiles despite the threat posed by North Korea, while 41.7 percent are in favor.

The Defense Ministry is setting aside a budget for fiscal 2018 to purchase long-range cruise missiles.

Japan’s policy on nuclear power could emerge as another topic of debate when the Diet opens for business on Jan. 22, with a civic group advised by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urging ruling and opposition lawmakers to adopt its draft bill to immediately halt nuclear power plant operations.

In the Kyodo survey, 49.0 percent of respondents were in favor of immediately halting all atomic plants in Japan and about 42 percent were opposed to the proposal.