Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet took a massive hit Sunday, as a new poll showed its approval rate had fallen sharply to 50.3% from last month’s 63.0%, Kyodo reports. The faltering support rate — the first time a Cabinet approval rate had dropped more than 10 points since June 2017 — comes as Suga’s government struggles to rejuvenate the economy amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

In a rare news conference Friday, Suga revealed little new information about how his administration will fight to reduce the number of coronavirus patients, instead allotting most of the time during a 50-minute briefing for economic recovery measures and policy interests unrelated to public health, reports Satoshi Sugiyama.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks at a news conference on Friday. | KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks at a news conference on Friday. | KYODO

Suga wrapped up his first Diet session as prime minister on Saturday, overall staying on course to pass necessary bills and ward off criticism over his handling of the pandemic, appointments to a science council and alleged improper use of funds in relation to a cherry blossom-viewing party linked to him and his predecessor, Shinzo Abe.

Prosecutors are considering a summary indictment of an aide to Abe under investigation over the dinner parties alleged to have been illegally paid for with political funds, according to Kyodo. Abe, who the same day promised to cooperate with the investigation “with sincerity,” is expected to be questioned by prosecutors soon.

Abe, who resigned as prime minister in September but remains a lawmaker, is likely to deny any knowledge of the lapse in bookkeeping. But the case may weaken his clout in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and deal a blow to Suga.