Support for Japan's Suga falls to new low as coronavirus spreads

The proportion of respondents saying they didn't support Mr Yoshihide Suga rose to 44.6 per cent, the highest level so far. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga fell to 32.2 per cent, the lowest since he took office in September, in a poll published by Jiji Press late Friday (May 14).

The proportion of respondents saying they didn't support him rose to 44.6 per cent, the highest level so far, amid growing dissatisfaction over his handling of the pandemic and the vaccine rollout.

The survey is the latest in a series to show flagging support, as Mr Suga faces an election for leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in September and a general election that must be held by October.

It comes as the government expands a state of emergency in a bid to control the latest surge in virus cases and presses ahead with plans for the Tokyo Olympics that polls show most voters don't want.

Mr Suga on Friday added three more prefectures to the state of emergency that already covered Tokyo and most of the country's major urban areas, while the Yomiuri newspaper reported Saturday that Gifu prefecture would also seek to be added.

Under the state of emergency, bars and restaurants are required to close at 8pm and to stop serving alcohol, while businesses are urged to allow people to work remotely.

Adding Gifu would mean 44 per cent of Japan's population is set to come under the state of emergency, which covers Hokkaido, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hiroshima, Okayama and Fukuoka, as well as the capital.

While none of the opposition parties has enough backing to topple the LDP, weak public support could tempt the party to replace Mr Suga.

The Jiji poll showed support for the LDP at 21.4 per cent, compared with 4.4 per cent for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party.

Almost 65 per cent of respondents, who were surveyed in individual interviews over May 7-10, said they didn't approve of the government's handling of the coronavirus, compared with 17.6 per cent who said they did approve.

Almost three quarters said they were dissatisfied with the slow pace of vaccinations compared with the rollouts in the US and other wealthy nations, as the number of people in serious condition from the virus crept up to a record high of 1,231.

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