• Jiji, Kyodo

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The government and the ruling parties are increasingly alarmed by plunging public support for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet, with some officials criticizing his response to the coronavirus crisis.

Pundits say the Cabinet is losing public support due to its failure to deal properly with a surge in new coronavirus cases across the country as well as a series of money scandals involving politicians.

Many members of the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling camp are voicing concerns that the government's Go To subsidy programs to stimulate demand dampened by the coronavirus crisis have contributed to the recent spread of COVID-19.

According to an opinion poll by the major daily Yomiuri Shimbun over the three days through Sunday, the approval rate for the Suga Cabinet, launched in September, dived 8 percentage points from last month to 61% in December.

In a two-day survey through Sunday by Japan News Network, led by Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc., the support rate for the Cabinet plunged 11.5 points to 55.3%.

In a Kyodo News survey released Sunday, the support rate plunged nearly 13 points to 50.3%

In those polls, the share of respondents disapproving of the government's measures against the coronavirus exceeded that of those supporting them.

"The results were not favorable, but we'll deal seriously with the current situation without overreacting to each fluctuation (in public support)," LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said during a news conference Monday.

The drops "reflect public concerns over the surge in the number of severely ill coronavirus patients and the medical system's capacities," Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, the LDP's ruling coalition partner, told reporters.

A senior LDP lawmaker of the House of Councilors said that the government will not be able to win public support if it tries to stop a further spread of the coronavirus without halting the Go To programs, including the Go To Travel campaign to shore up the tourism industry.

"As long as the government recommends travel, people will keep their guard down," a Komeito source said, expressing the view that the programs have helped worsen the coronavirus situation.

The government cannot stop the programs because it wants to avoid such criticism, the source also said.

An LDP member who once held a ministerial post criticized Suga's news conference on Friday, saying that "the prime minister failed to explain what he should have explained."

The member warned that public support "will drop more and more" over controversial dinner parties held for supporters of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of annual state-funded cheery blossom-viewing parties he hosted and a money scandal involving former agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa.

A senior official of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said that public distrust of the government and the ruling bloc has intensified due to the government's poor response to the coronavirus, including over the Go To programs, and scandals involving politicians.

"The public is disappointed at Suga's inconsistent response to the coronavirus crisis," Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the Japanese Communist Party, told a news conference.

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