New Japan PM Kishida off to rocky start in polling

Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Oct 4, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is struggling to find his footing with voters just two days after he was voted into office and launched his new government, multiple polls by local media showed on Tuesday (Oct 5).

On the lower end, the daily Asahi put Mr Kishida's approval rating at 45 per cent while Mainichi put it at 49 per cent. The more conservative-leaning Yomiuri said 56 per cent supported his government, while the Nikkei had 59 per cent.

In all the polls, support for Mr Kishida's new government was lower than that of his predecessor Mr Yoshihide Suga's administration when it came into power last year, with the Asahi reporting a 20 percentage-point difference.

I'm aware of the polling results, but also believe that there is quite a gap depending on the company that conducted the survey," said Mr Kishida to reporters on Wednesday morning.

"Regardless, I will reflect on my actions based on these results - including the low approval ratings - and continue to work hard towards the upcoming election," he added.

Although Mr Kishida's ratings are low for a fresh administration, they are still higher than the most immediate ratings for Mr Suga, who became deeply unpopular during his tenure as he struggled to contain a fifth wave of coronavirus infections, exacerbated by the Delta variant.

Mr Kishida said he would dissolve the Lower House of Parliament on Oct 14, and a general election is scheduled for Oct 31, with the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery set to become key issues.

For single-seat districts, the Mainichi poll said that 41 per cent of respondents would vote for the ruling coalition, while 34 per cent would vote for the opposition and 24 per cent were undecided. The Yomiuri put support for Mr Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party at 43 per cent, up 7 percentage points from the previous poll.

The premier unveiled his new cabinet on Monday. Although more than half of the ministerial roles were filled with fresh faces, the line-up also featured allies of former premiers Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso heavily, signalling their ongoing influence.

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