TOKYO • Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet rose by 9 percentage points to 36 per cent despite the recent arrest of his former justice minister on suspicion of vote-buying, a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun daily showed yesterday.
The approval rating had fallen to 27 per cent in the paper’s previous poll conducted soon after a senior Tokyo prosecutor who was seen as close to the premier resigned in late May for gambling during Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency.
A drop in voter support below 30 per cent is often seen as a danger sign.
Mainichi’s latest survey does not give specific reasons for the rebound in support, but 55 per cent of those polled welcomed the government’s decision last Thursday to lift curbs on domestic travel. That compares with 32 per cent of respondents who said the restrictions should have remained in place.
Prosecutors last Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Mr Abe, and Mr Kawai’s lawmaker wife Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in an Upper House election last year.
Although support for Mr Abe’s government rebounded, 59 per cent of those polled believe Mr Abe has heavy responsibility for the matter.
Mr Abe has apologised to the public over the scandal, saying he felt his responsibility strongly for his appointment of Mr Kawai to the post.
The Mainichi survey also showed that 59 per cent of respondents do not believe the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for July and August this year but postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, can be held next year. Only 21 per cent think the event can be held in 2021.
Japan has not suffered the explosive surge of coronavirus infections seen in some other countries. It has confirmed about 18,000 Covid-19 cases and over 950 deaths.