Japan Cabinet approval rating up 6 points after reshuffle but many still distrust PM Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug 3, 2017.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug 3, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network) - The approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet has rose to 42 per cent, up six percentage points from the previous survey in which it marked its lowest point since December 2012, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted on Thursday and Friday (Aug 3 and 4) showed.

But the survey, conducted immediately after the Cabinet was reshuffled on Thursday, showed disapproval rating stood at 48 per cent, higher than the approval rating.

The results indicate that Abe will likely continue to struggle in his management of the administration, according to observers.

Since the turn of the year, Abe has come under fire for two cronyism scandals involving educational institutions, while the Defence Ministry has been grappling with the fallout of a cover-up saga over daily mission logs kept by Japanese troops sent to South Sudan.

In a bid to regain public trust, Abe unveiled the new Cabinet line-up that is heavy on experience and vowing to redirect focus back to policy issues.

Of the 19 ministerial positions, 13 went to lawmakers with previous Cabinet experience, while the rest are newcomers. The average age of the 19 ministers is 64.8 years.

To ensure stability, Abe, 62, kept key allies such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, 68; Finance Minister Taro Aso, 76; and Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko, 54.

But he also swopped out all the ministers who had, in one way or another, been implicated in a series of political scandals and gaffes that have slashed approval ratings to under 30 per cent in several polls.

In the Yomiuri survey conducted after the reshuffle, 54 per cent of those who disapproved of the Cabinet said their reason was that "the prime minister is not reliable," higher than the 49-per-cent figure in the previous survey, which was the highest since the inauguration of Abe's second Cabinet in December 2012.

With respect to retaining Taro Aso, who concurrently serves as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in their current posts, 49 per cent replied they have a high opinion of it, while 38 per cent said they do not.

Meanwhile, 55 per cent approved the appointment of Seiko Noda as internal affairs and communications minister, 53 per cent approved the appointment of Taro Kono as foreign minister and 53 per cent backed Fumio Kishida as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council chairman.

Asked about priority policy issues that the Cabinet should tackle, 80 per cent chose "the economy and employment," followed by "social security" at 75 per cent and "foreign and security policies" at 70 per cent.

Those who answered "constitutional revision" came in at 29 per cent.

Meanwhile, 79 per cent said they do not think the prime minister sufficiently provided explanations in the Diet about issues relating Kake Educational Institution's plan to establish a veterinary science department.

With regard to Tomomi Inada, who resigned as defence minister, 77 per cent said she "should have quit the post earlier."

As to the support ratings of political parties, 36 per cent support the LDP, up five percentage points from the previous survey, while 6 per cent support the largest opposition Democratic Party, the same as the previous survey.

Those who said they expect Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), a regional political party effectively led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, to advance into national politics increased to 48 per cent from 37 per cent in the previous survey.

The survey was conducted by calling 997 households with landline phones and 1,377 mobile phone users - all eligible voters aged 18 or older - sampled with a random digit dialing method. Of them, a total of 1,152 people - 550 people on landlines and 602 people on mobile phones - gave valid answers.