A Cabinet is said to have entered “dangerous waters” if its public approval rating sinks below 30 percent. Only 2 1/2 months after Mr. Taro Aso came into power, the approval rating for his Cabinet has fallen to 25.5 percent, a drop of 15.4 percentage points from November, according to a Kyodo News poll. Other polls by three major newspapers put the rate at 21 percent or 22 percent.
The disapproval rating in the Kyodo poll rose to 61.3 percent, up 19.1 percentage points. This is an ominous figure, indicating that about two-thirds of the public do not trust Mr. Aso as the nation’s leader at a time when a global financial crisis is battering Japan.
The fall in the approval rating is rapid when compared with those for the administrations of Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda. About three months after the inauguration of the Abe Cabinet, it enjoyed an approval rating of 48.6 percent. For the Fukuda Cabinet, the corresponding figure was 35.3 percent. The approval rating for the Abe Cabinet went down to 29 percent when the Liberal Democratic Party suffered a big loss in the July 2007 Upper House election.
The reason for the unpopularity of the Aso Cabinet is that Mr. Aso is not quick enough in taking policy measures necessary to rescue the Japanese economy from a dire situation and to stabilize people’s lives at this difficult time. He does not seem serious enough about his policy-related statements.
Although he said economic measures needed speed, he postponed until January the submission to the Diet of a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008. He was not consistent in his statements concerning matters such as how ¥2 trillion cash benefits for households should be distributed, how revenues from road-related taxes should be used by local governments, and when the government should start shouldering half of the basic portion of pensions, instead of the current one-third.
Mr. Aso should learn the basic thing about premiership — that the prime minister’s statements carry heavy weight. He should pursue consistency and explain his policies in a logical and clear-cut manner.
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