TOKYO • Anxiety about the future is spreading within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as the approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet has continued to drop in opinion polls conducted by various media outlets, hitting record lows since the inauguration of the second Abe Cabinet.
The approval rating for the LDP, which had remained steady until the latest polls, also dropped, prompting several LDP members to voice concerns over the next House of Representatives election.
Mr Abe aims to stem the tide by reshuffling the Cabinet and the executive posts of the LDP, but some are sceptical about this, with one member saying: "We can't expect a rebound just by conducting personnel changes."
In a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll conducted nationwide from last Friday to Sunday, the Cabinet's approval rating declined significantly to 36 per cent, down 13 points from the previous survey and 25 points from the one before that.
Learning of the polling figures, LDP General Council chairman Hiroyuki Hosoda stressed to reporters on Monday that the decline will not necessarily continue.
"If we conduct reliable diplomatic and economic policies, we will once again receive high approval ratings," said Mr Hosoda.
But an experienced LDP lawmaker was less optimistic. "I can feel the change in mood. The Prime Minister's unifying power is waning for sure."
What shocked the LDP was the fact that its party approval rating fell by 10 points from the previous poll to 31 per cent and hit its lowest level since the launch of the second Abe Cabinet.
Some members voiced concern for the next national election, with a mid-ranking LDP member saying: "There is no end to criticism of Abe from voters in my constituency. We are losing the hearts of the people."
To get back on his feet, Mr Abe plans to conduct a personnel reshuffle on Aug 3. But Mr Shigeru Ishiba, a former minister, said: "This is not a situation that can be dealt with through superficial measures such as a Cabinet reshuffle."
Yesterday, Mr Abe visited a region devastated by flooding over recent days and promised that the government would do everything possible to help rebuild the area.
Torrential rain that began a week ago set off landslides and sent rivers surging over their banks. Twenty-five people were killed and 23 are still missing. "The government will make every effort to rebuild so that people can resume their lives without worries," Mr Abe said.
THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE