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The end of the year, and perhaps a chance to start afresh, can’t come soon enough for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. He came to office on a wave of popularity, pledging to combat the coronavirus and fix Japan’s economy, but three months on, he seems to be struggling to find his feet, AP reports.

Suga’s support ratings have plummeted amid flaring virus outbreaks and scandals within the ruling party, even as the economy appears to be recovering. On Monday, a Nikkei newspaper survey found approval ratings for Suga’s government had sunk more than 30 points to 42% from 74% in late September.

Indeed, Suga’s tenure is looking worryingly similar to that of a Liberal Democratic Party bigwig who became PM in 2008, only to lead his coalition into its worst election defeat ever within a year. Both leaders enjoyed high levels of support soon after they took office but saw ratings plunge amid missteps and high public spending.

PM Suga hopes to strengthen health care systems before new year holidays | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
PM Suga hopes to strengthen health care systems before new year holidays | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

The last thing Suga needs in 2021 is tension within the coalition between the LDP and junior partner Komeito, which has been solid since the turn of the millennium. But now — faced with policy differences and generational changes, along with two key elections — that union could be put under strain as never before, explains Eric Johnston in an FYI.

Also not helping matters for Suga is the ongoing focus on his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. Although Abe won’t face criminal charges over a political funding scandal he is embroiled in — despite having made 118 false statements in the Diet about the matter — the former PM’s behavior could taint Suga’s tenure, writes Johnston. After all, Suga was Abe’s right-hand man at the time of the hotel dinners at the center of the furor.

But someone still loves scandal-hit Abe: U.S. President Donald Trump has awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit to his golfing buddy for his “leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. government said last week. Can you guess which other two prime ministers received the honor? Here’s a big clue: Quad.

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