Trio of woes hanging over Abe's govt before Tokyo poll: The Japan News columnists

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attending a news conference after a parliament session at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan on June 19, 2017.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attending a news conference after a parliament session at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan on June 19, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Eita Hagiwara, Hiroshi Tajima

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)- With his Cabinet's approval rate falling, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - who reigns as the predominant force within his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - has seen its strength begin to decline, and the party now faces a headwind in the midst of campaigning for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election to be held on July 2.

The poll's outcome will likely influence Abe's future handling of the administration, including debate over constitutional revisions.

On Tuesday, Abe consulted former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori by phone about the Tokyo election, lamenting, "Things aren't working as I'd like."

Mori responded by saying: "Bring (House of Representatives lawmaker) Shinjiro Koizumi to the fore and pit him against (Tokyo) Governor Yuriko Koike. If things are left as they are, you'll lose the race big-time."

Expectations are high within the LDP for Koizumi's endorsement speech.

The party's leadership scheduled Koizumi to campaign in the Ginza district and other areas on Wednesday.

Facing what a senior member of the LDP's Tokyo chapter dubbed "the strongest headwind the party has confronted since it returned to power in 2012," the party has no choice but to rely on Koizumi, who has won elections three times.

The LDP already has been seen to face an uphill battle against the popular Koike in the current Tokyo election, and now three miscalculations have left the party dealing with self-inflicted injuries.

In regard to an issue involving the Kake Educational Institution, internal documents of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry have come to light one after another. Such developments keep the party from overcoming voters' distrust. Abe vented his frustration to those around him by saying: "There's no authority worse than the education ministry. It keeps working against the administration."

At the end of the ordinary Diet session, the ruling parties railroaded through the passage of a bill to revise the Law on Punishment of Organised Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds that would criminalise preparation for terrorist attacks. Passage was hastened along by resorting to an "interim report," skipping a vote by a related House of Councillors committee. The measure was to avoid chaos at the committee vote, but this "unusual step" has drawn criticism.

An allegation of verbal and physical abuse by lower house lawmaker Mayuko Toyota toward her male secretary worsened the LDP's image, once her abusive language that was apparently recorded by him was released to the public via the internet. It is hard to erase the image even though Toyota offered to resign from the party.

Shackled by the "trio of woes" of the Kake issue, Diet management and the abuse allegation, LDP leadership began worrying that the party would win only around 38 seats in the coming Tokyo assembly election, matching the record-low number of seats that the party won in the same election held in 2009.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Tomomi Inada came under fire from opposition parties following a campaign speech in which she remarked, "On behalf of the Self-Defence Forces, I ask for your support (for our LDP candidate)."

A series of opinion surveys conducted by media are reporting the unfavourable position of the LDP, which lags behind Koike-led Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group).

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion survey conducted on Tokyo voters on June 23-25, the Cabinet approval rating dropped by nine percentage points from the previous month to 39 per cent, compared to the disapproval rating of 50 per cent.

Abe directed the party's executive meeting on Tuesday to put all the party's effort into the Tokyo election, saying: "The current election will be a severe contest. We must fight for every candidate to win."