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LDP shapes up for the House of Representatives by-elections, Yomiuri opinion poll

  • 2016-02-16 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: February 16, 2016 – p. 4)

 

 According to the nationwide opinion poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 12–14, the Abe cabinet’s support rate is managing to hold at around 50% although it is down by 4 percentage points from the previous survey. LDP leaders are calling on party members to watch their conduct with an eye on the April Lower House by-elections and the summer Upper House elections.

 

 At his press conference on Feb. 15, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga showed confidence, saying, “[The cabinet’s support rate] has not dropped by much. It is over 50%. The figure is within the error range.”

 

 According to the Yomiuri opinion polls taken since Shinzo Abe came back into power in December 2012, the cabinet support rate hit its lowest at 41% in September 2015 right after the passage of the security-related legislation. A support rate of 50% or over is, according to government sources, “evidence that the cabinet is in the safe zone.” Even in the poll conducted on Jan. 30–31 after former Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization Akira Amari resigned from the cabinet, the cabinet support rate rose by 2 percentage points. The increase is said to reflect the public’s positive assessment of the strides made to improve Japan-South Korea ties.

 

 Since then, however, adverse winds have continued to blow. The cabinet has been under criticism for the actions of its members: Minister of Justice Mitsuhide Iwaki delayed budget deliberations because he had difficulty responding to questions regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Aiko Shimajiri recently was unable to read the Chinese characters for “Habomai.” Moreover, Kensuke Miyazaki (Kyoto No. 3 district), the LDP Lower House member who was in the spotlight for seeking to take paternity leave, has announced his resignation as parliamentarian due to an extramarital affair.

 

 With Miyazaki’s resignation set to be approved on Feb. 16, the Prime Minister apologized at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 15, saying, “As LDP President, I would like to apologize that one of our party’s delegates ended up resigning in that fashion. Before being a politician, one must be respectable as a person.”

 

 At the LDP Board meeting held on Feb. 15, Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki made a special request, “The public is looking critically at the government and ruling parties. Not just the young Diet members but also those with long government experience need to exercise discretion and make sure that they cannot be found at fault.” Some senior party members are saying, “Repeated scandals involving cabinet ministers are like body blows to the administration.”

 

 In addition to the Lower House by-election for Hokkaido Constituency No. 5 set for April 24, a Lower House by-election will also be held for Kyoto Constituency No. 3 on the same day, assuming Miyazaki’s resignation is approved. There is a possibility that the LDP will “lose by default” [by not fielding a candidate] in this Kyoto constituency.

 

 Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan sees the repeated indiscretions by LDP members as a “unique opportunity,” according to a middle-echelon DPJ member, and hopes to parlay it into victories in the Lower House by-elections and the Upper House elections. According to the recent Yomiuri poll, however, support for the DPJ and other opposition parties has not increased. The reality is that they may not necessarily be able to “take advantage of the ruling parties’ errors.”

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