Approval rate for Japan PM Abe's Cabinet logs sharpest fall in 2 years

17, Feb. 2020

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TOKYO, Kyodo - The approval rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet stands at 41.0 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday, down 8.3 points from the previous poll in January and marking the sharpest fall in nearly two years amid yet another cronyism scandal.

In the nationwide opinion poll, conducted Saturday and Sunday, 82.5 percent said they were either "worried" or "worried to a certain extent" about the negative impact of the new coronavirus outbreak on the Japanese economy.

While 63.5 percent welcomed the government's decision to prohibit some foreigners from entering Japan to prevent the spread of the virus that originated in China, 30.4 percent said it was insufficient.

The survey also showed that 71.4 percent expect an unfavorable impact on Japan if Donald Trump is re-elected in the U.S. presidential election in November, while 16.7 percent anticipate a favorable impact.

The disapproval rate stood at 46.1 percent, up 9.4 points, following criticism of the government's handling of documents related to publicly funded annual cherry blossom viewing parties at the center of another allegation of cronyism.

At issue is the opaque selection process for guests, with the government compiling the list of invitees based on recommendations from Cabinet members, including the prime minister, and ruling party lawmakers.

In the telephone survey, 84.5 percent said Abe had failed to provide an adequate explanation regarding the matter.

With the arrest last year of former ruling party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto for allegedly receiving bribes from a Chinese company in connection with a casino project, 77.5 percent said the government should review its plan to open "integrated resorts" including casinos, hotels and conference facilities.

Japan last year legalized casinos as part of integrated resorts, with the government planning to choose up to three locations for the complexes that are expected to start operating in the mid-2020s.

When asked about the most appropriate time to dissolve the lower house for a general election, 46.4 percent replied "after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics," followed by "in the next year or later" at 31.1 percent. The four-year term of House of Representatives members will end in October 2021 unless Abe dissolves the chamber.

On who should succeed Abe as next prime minister, 22.6 percent said Shigeru Ishiba, a former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and 12.0 percent endorsed Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, while 13.4 percent hoped Abe would remain in office.

Regarding Abe's push to amend the country's pacifist Constitution, 56.5 percent expressed opposition while 33.3 percent were supportive.

The survey, covering 742 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,296 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 513 and 516 people, respectively. (Kyodo)