Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s latest Cabinet reshuffle has failed to gain much public support, with a survey showing Wednesday that 45.2 percent of respondents did not view it positively, while only 31.0 percent said they did.
A reshuffle typically helps boost a Cabinet’s approval ratings, but Abe’s latest gamble has apparently failed to do so.
The nationwide telephone poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by Kyodo News still showed a 46.5 percent overall approval rate for Abe’s administration, down 0.9 percentage point from the previous poll in September.
The survey gathered valid responses from 504 people through landline telephones and 511 from people with mobile phones.
On Tuesday, Abe, who was re-elected LDP president last month, revamped his Cabinet and LDP executive lineup while retaining key figures, including Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Among the 19 ministerial posts, the prime minister appointed 12 newcomers — mostly veteran lawmakers — and one with previous ministerial experience in an apparent attempt to maintain party unity and reward intraparty groups that supported him in the LDP presidential election.
According to the survey, 51.9 percent believe Aso, whose ministry has been embroiled in a series of scandals, should have been replaced in the personnel overhaul, while 33.5 percent said they see no problem with his reappointment.
Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, came under fire earlier this year amid allegations that top Finance Ministry bureaucrat Junichi Fukuda sexually harassed a female TV reporter, as well as a revelation of document-tampering involving a murky state land sale to Moritomo Gakuen, a school operator in Osaka with ties to Abe’s wife Akie.
The respondents were divided over the premier’s decision not to offer former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who challenged him in the LDP race, any ministerial or key party posts, with 43.3 percent saying they understand the move, but 41.0 percent responding that they do not.
Of the respondents that backed the Abe Cabinet, 41.1 percent indicated a perceived lack of other appropriate leaders. Among those who did not support the Cabinet, 39.7 percent said they could not trust the premier.
Since last year, Abe has been haunted by allegations that government officials provided special treatment to a pair of school operators linked to him, including the state land transaction case.
In a news conference after the reshuffle, Abe reiterated his call for the LDP to submit its proposals to revise the pacifist Constitution, one of his long-held goals, to the upcoming extraordinary Diet session, set to be convened later in the month.
The latest poll found 48.7 percent were opposed to the move while 36.4 percent supported it.
Abe has sought to clarify what he calls the ambiguous status of the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9 to end debate over the constitutionality of the Japanese troops.
Asked about the government’s contentious plan to transfer a key U.S. base within the southern island prefecture of Okinawa, 54.9 percent were opposed to it compared to 34.8 percent in favor.
The central government has pursued relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the less populated coastal district of Henoko in Nago.
The Cabinet reshuffle came days after a candidate backed by the ruling bloc lost to his antibase rival in the Okinawa gubernatorial election.