Op­po­si­tion fails to cap­i­tal­ize on Abe’s woes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - PUB­LIC SUP­PORT

for Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has fallen be­low 30 per­cent, his low­est ap­proval rat­ing since he re­turned to power in 2012. Bei­jing News com­mented on Thurs­day:

The slump in Abe’s ap­proval rat­ing came just three months af­ter Abe poured scorn on the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party for hav­ing the sup­port of a mea­ger 10 per­cent of the elec­torate. Smol­der­ing scan­dals, from al­leged fa­voritism linked to a friend’s busi­ness and mis­steps by his Cab­i­net min­is­ters, have dealt a heavy blow to Abe.

But the heav­i­est blow has ac­tu­ally come from him­self, as many vot­ers be­lieve that the Ja­panese leader is tak­ing them for granted. Abe dis­claimed any in­volve­ment in the re­cent scan­dals even in the face of solid ev­i­dence and pub­lic calls for proper ex­pla­na­tions. His ad­min­is­tra­tion has even been ac­cused of smear­ing a po­lit­i­cal ri­val by pub­lish­ing forged in­for­ma­tion about his per­sonal life.

Such mis­steps are tak­ing a toll on Abe, who was ex­pected to win a third three-year term and con­tinue to run the coun­try when his term ex­pires next year.

Since the end of the Cold War, Ja­panese prime

min­is­ters with a sup­port rate of less than 30 per­cent have all ended up leav­ing of­fice within a year, be­cause of the en­su­ing loss of pub­lic trust and the rise of the op­po­si­tion par­ties.

Mean­while, the di­vi­sions in Abe’s own camp are ex­pand­ing. A week ago Na­tuso Ya­m­aguchi, the leader of New Komeito, the ju­nior part­ner in Abe’s rul­ing coali­tion, urged the prime min­is­ter to fo­cus on “re­gain­ing pub­lic trust”.

It is too early to say the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion is now doomed. His sup­port rate is above the sin­gle-digit level that forced some of his pre­de­ces­sors to re­sign. Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga also promised that the gov­ern­ment would sin­cerely heed its fall­ing sup­port rate “as the voice of the peo­ple”.

In other words, the ta­bles could be turned if Abe takes a hum­ble stance and seeks to make amends. Nor will the rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party give way to the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party, which has failed to ben­e­fit from Abe’s tra­vails.

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