The approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has fallen 6.0 points since November to 42.7 percent, marking the second straight month of decline, amid criticism he uses taxpayers’ money to entertain his supporters at a state cherry-blossom viewing event, a survey showed Sunday.
The disapproval rate stood at 43.0 percent, up from 38.1 percent and eclipsing the support rating for the first time since December 2018, the Kyodo News survey said.
The sharp drop in the support rate followed a drop of 5.4 points in November. It was the first fall of 10 points or more in two consecutive polls since February and March 2018, when Abe was embroiled in a scandal linked to cronyism allegations over a sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen.
In the nationwide telephone poll over the weekend, 83.5 percent of respondents said Abe’s explanation regarding the annual state-funded cherry blossom event was insufficient.
Abe has been accused of using the event for personal gain by entertaining hundreds of his supporters.
As a long-standing practice, a prime minister and some within the Cabinet can make recommendations before the government draws up the guest list for the ruling party. The event is intended to honor people such as athletes and celebrities for their accomplishments.
The survey also showed that 61.5 percent opposed Abe serving a fourth consecutive three-year term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, while 28.7 percent supported the extension of his stint as LDP president beyond the end of his current term in September 2021.
While LDP rules only allow a president to serve three consecutive terms, some senior party lawmakers have voiced support for changing the rules to allow Abe to stay in his post to pursue his quest to amend the Constitution for the first time.
According to the survey, 51.5 percent opposed the government’s latest plan to send Self-Defense Forces ships and personnel to the Middle East, while 33.7 percent expressed support.
The Cabinet is set to approve on Dec. 23 the LDP’s draft plan to send SDF personnel to the Middle East to ensure the safety of commercial shipping and for intelligence-gathering and research purposes.
Sending SDF assets overseas is a sensitive issue, given that engagement in a foreign conflict would violate war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
The survey, covering 738 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,267 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 510 people each.