Shinzo Abe's support falls into 'danger zone' after prosecutor scandal

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on May 21, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Support for the Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plunged in a Mainichi poll, dropping by 13 percentage points as public dissatisfaction builds over the handling of a scandal involving the resignation of a top prosecutor.

Just 27 per cent of those surveyed supported Mr Abe's Cabinet, down from 40 per cent in the previous survey on May 6. The disapproval rating jumped 19 percentage points to 64 per cent. A rating below 30 per cent has traditionally been regarded as a "danger zone" for Cabinet support levels.

Mr Hiromu Kurokawa, the head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor's Office, resigned Thursday after reports he had bet money on games of mahjong with newspaper reporters during the state of emergency, when Tokyo residents were urged to stay indoors.

Mr Kurokawa was regarded as having close ties to Mr Abe, with the government earlier this year extending his retirement age in a move that was seen to potentially set him up to take over the more powerful post of prosecutor-general.

The support level is close to the lowest Mr Abe has faced in the Mainichi's polls since returning to power in 2012.

The previous low was 26 per cent in July 2017, when Mr Abe faced broad suspicion of his handling of a public land sale, though the paper notes its methods have changed over time. More than 70 per cent said Mr Abe was responsible for the decision to extend Mr Kurokawa's retirement.

Despite Japan being set to end its coronavirus state of emergency on Monday (May 25), public dissatisfaction for Mr Abe's handling of the economic fallout of the outbreak has meant his administration has seen little benefit from the comparatively low rates of virus cases and deaths.

"Sayonara Prime Minister Abe" became one of the top trending hashtags on Japanese Twitter on Saturday as the public reacted to the poll.

The phone poll was conducted with the Social Survey Research Centre on May 23 and got 1,019 valid responses, the Mainichi said.

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