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Cabinet approval rating falls to 56%; largest decline since Dec. 2012

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet fell 10 percentage points from the previous poll to 56 percent, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll conducted on Saturday and Sunday.

The disapproval rating rose to 33 percent, from 24 percent in the previous poll conducted Feb. 17-19.

Among respondents with no particular party affiliation, the approval rating was 33 percent, down from 45 percent in the previous survey.

The 10-percentage-point decline in the overall approval rating is the largest since December 2012, when the second Abe Cabinet was inaugurated. It is the first time the approval rating for the Abe Cabinet has been at the 50 percent level since the Dec. 2-4 poll last year, when it stood at 59 percent. It is also the lowest figure since September last year.

Regarding the issue that state-owned land was sold to educational corporation Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka at a price that was about ¥800 million lower than its appraised value, the government explained that the cost of removing waste had been deducted from the price.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they were not satisfied with the explanation. Even among those who support the Liberal Democratic Party, 81 percent said they were not satisfied. In addition, 64 percent of all respondents were not satisfied with Abe’s explanation, in which he denied the involvement of himself and his wife, Akie, in the case.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada recently corrected her previous Diet statement, in which she had denied her relationship with Moritomo Gakuen, and apologized. Regarding a series of statements by Inada, 81 percent said it was highly or more or less problematic.

The support rate for the LDP stood at 40 percent, followed by the Democratic Party at 7 percent and the Japanese Communist Party at 3 percent.

Eligible voters aged 18 or older were surveyed using the random digit dialing method. Valid answers were given by a total of 1,092 people — 531 from 912 households with landlines and 561 from 1,252 cell phone users. The response rate was 58 percent for landlines and 45 percent for cell phones.

Within scope of assumption

The government and the ruling parties see a drop in the approval rating for the Abe Cabinet in the latest Yomiuri Shimbun survey as indicating that people have cast a stern eye on the government’s mishandling of such issues as the Moritomo Gakuen scandal.

A senior LDP member stressed the need to tighten the management of the administration, saying: “We had expected such a decline in the Cabinet approval rating. We have to carefully respond to issues, including the Moritomo Gakuen case.”

The drop in the support rate was mainly due to a lack of explanations by the government on the Moritomo issue. Among those who were not satisfied with Abe’s explanation that denied the involvement of himself and his wife in the Moritomo case, 46 percent disapproved of the Cabinet, which was higher than the 43 percent who supported the Cabinet.

Inada has come under fire for not only correcting her statement on the Moritomo-related issue, but also for her late response on the issue of the daily activity logs of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda has been criticized for his response to revisions to the Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds, which would criminalize acts in preparation for terrorism.

Some officials within the ruling parties said the fact that the problems surfaced simultaneously has tarnished the image of the Cabinet even more seriously.

The government and ruling parties are aiming to dispel suspicions [around the Moritomo Gakuen issue] through the Diet testimony of Yasunori Kagoike as a sworn witness, which is scheduled for Thursday. Kagoike has announced his resignation as president of Moritomo Gakuen.

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