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Politics

Abe's approval hit by questions over taxpayer-funded festivities

Support for cabinet slides 7 points to 50%, stemming from cherry blossom party

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, mingles with guests at the government-funded cherry blossom event in Tokyo in April 2019.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- The approval rating of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet declined 7 points from last month to 50% in the latest Nikkei-TV Tokyo survey, taking a hit from the controversy over supporters being invited to a government-funded event to view cherry blossoms.

Disapproval of the cabinet rose 4 points to 40%.

Approval sank 5 points to 56% among men and 8 points to 43% among women. It came to 59% among those aged 18 to 39 but 48% for those 40 and older.

Opposition parties have taken issue with the selection of guests for the annual cherry blossom event, which was canceled for next spring. In the Diet, they have also questioned the handling of fees collected for a dinner hosted by an Abe supporters' group on the eve of the event.

The survey found that 69% of respondents are not satisfied with Abe's explanations so far. The figure reached 94% among those who do not support the cabinet and 73% among independents. About half of those backing the cabinet or Abe's Liberal Democratic Party said they are not satisfied.

Respondents also named their picks for prime minister from among 10 possible choices. Those choosing Abe slipped to 14% from 16%, putting him in third place. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba led the pack at 20%, followed by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at 18%. Ishiba and Koizumi, a son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, are both LDP members.

On whether the parties should begin discussions on specific steps to revise the constitution, 74% said yes, unchanged from the previous survey. The figure came to 82% among cabinet supporters and 63% among those not supporting the cabinet. Those seeing no need for discussion held steady at 20%.

Asked about household spending following the Oct. 1 consumption tax hike, 69% reported no change, down 7 points from the October poll. Those saying they cut spending rose 6 points to 27%.

On Japan's ties with South Korea, which have cooled in recent months, 69% see no need to rush to improve relations if Japan must make a concession, while 21% want Japan to yield to mend fences. Both figures were roughly the same as the previous survey.

Seventy-seven percent of those who back the cabinet, and 63% of those who do not, said there is no need to rush to improve bilateral relations.

South Korea informed Japan on Friday that it would stay in an intelligence-sharing agreement, hours before the pact would have expired. The new poll began before Seoul's announcement, but most responses were received afterward.

Nikkei Research surveyed people 18 and older via telephone from Friday to Sunday, receiving 992 responses. The response rate came to 46.7%.

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