Japan

Abe cabinet support rate rises to 38.9% despite cronyism scandal

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Public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet has risen 1.9 percentage points to 38.9 percent from a month before, even as cronyism allegations linger over a veterinary school project involving Abe's close friend, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.

The weekend poll found 75.5 percent were dissatisfied with testimony by a former aide to Abe in parliament on Thursday, during which he admitted to meeting officials of the school operator but denied having done so at Abe's direction.

Abe has been struggling to dispel allegations of cronyism, including over whether he had a hand in his friend's campaign to win government permission in 2017 to open Japan's first veterinary department at a university in half a century in Ehime Prefecture.

The disapproval rate for the Abe cabinet stood at 50.3 percent, down from 52.6 percent in the previous survey.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents also said the government approval process on the school project was "not appropriate," compared with 16.9 percent who thought otherwise.

The appearance of Tadao Yanase at the Diet for questioning was much anticipated after the Ehime prefectural government was recently found to have kept a memorandum of a meeting with Yanase in 2015, which showed the then secretary to Abe had called the project a "matter concerning the prime minister."

Yanase denied in parliament that he made the remarks to the prefectural government officials, but admitted to having met officials of the school operator, the director of which is Abe's friend, three times in 2015.

Critics have said it is rare for a prime minister's secretary to meet people from the private sector multiple times. Opposition parties have said it was obvious from Yanase's remarks how the school operator was well treated.

On who should be elected in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election in September, Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star in the LDP and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, secured the top spot for the first time since the question was added to the survey in February this year.

Shinjiro Koizumi, who is currently the LDP's chief deputy secretary general, won 26.6 percent of support, up 1.4 percentage points. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba came second, backed by 24.7 percent, followed by Abe who won 21.2 percent.

But Abe was the most popular figure among respondents who support the LDP, getting 45.8 percent. Shinjiro Koizumi followed, but with 20.4 percent.

By party, the LDP remained the most popular, garnering 37.1 percent of support.

Not many people seemed to be enthusiastic about a new party recently launched by the merger of the Democratic Party, which was once the main opposition force, and another opposition party. Only 18.1 percent said they have "expectations" of the new party, named Democratic Party for the People.

The support rate for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan stood at 13.3 percent.

Meanwhile, poll respondents were divided over whether Finance Minister Taro Aso should resign over his controversial remarks in connection with alleged sexual harassment of a female reporter by a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat.

Asked about Aso's comment that the reporter may have sought to frame the then top bureaucrat, a remark he later retracted, 49.1 percent said Aso should step down and 45.5 percent said he need not do so.

The latest nationwide telephone survey, conducted Saturday and Sunday, covered 745 randomly selected households with eligible voters as well as 1,157 mobile phone numbers, and obtained responses from 522 and 523 people, respectively.

© KYODO

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