Support for Japan's PM Suga hits new low after Covid-19 emergency extended

Mr Yoshihide Suga faces a party leadership election in September and must hold a general election by the end of October. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga slipped to its lowest since he took office about eight months ago in a poll conducted after he extended a state of emergency to try to control rising coronavirus infections.

The survey released on Monday (May 10) by broadcaster JNN found 40 per cent of respondents said they supported Mr Suga, down 4.4 percentage points from a month earlier. Asked whether they approved of his government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, 63 per cent said they did not, a 13 percentage point increase.

On top of this, Mr Suga's government is also taking a beating over its plans to host the Olympics in Tokyo from July amid worries that the sports extravaganza could turn into a Covid-19 superspreader event. Nearly 60 per cent of respondents in a Yomiuri newspaper poll over the weekend said the games should be cancelled.

Mr Suga faces a party leadership election in September and must hold a general election by the end of October. While none of the opposition parties have enough support to topple his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, sliding support could prompt the party to replace him.

Meanwhile the government has been sitting on millions of doses of virus vaccines, with the rollout finally set to begin in earnest this week, months after many other wealthy nations. The world's third largest economy, Japan, has been vaccinating its population at about the same rate as Myanmar, a country on the brink of a civil war.

Only 2.4 per cent of Japan's about 126 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine so far, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Three quarters of respondents to the JNN poll said they didn't think the government would meet its target of immunising the elderly by the end of July.

Mr Suga on Friday extended a state of emergency until May 31 for Tokyo and the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto. He also added the industrial region of Aichi and the southern prefecture of Fukuoka, trying to stem infections with the Olympics less than three months away.

The expanded measure covers about 40 per cent of the economy and most major urban areas - increasing the risk of triggering a double-dip recession.

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