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Abe administration rushes to rebuild after cabinet support rate drops

In recent public opinion surveys taken by media outlets, the cabinet support rate dropped across the board, and the Abe administration is desperately seeking to rebuild. With sights set on the unified local elections and Upper House election next year, it plans to try to turn the tide by focusing on economic policies, regional revitalization, and diplomacy. The relocation of the U.S. military’s Futenma Air Station (Ginowan City, Okinawa) and the revision of immigration legislation to accept more foreign workers in Japan are seen as factors behind the drop in the cabinet approval rate, however, and there is a chance these issues will drag on.


“It is critical that we address economic revitalization, diplomacy, security, and other key issues one by one and produce results,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference on Dec. 17, stressing the administration’s stance to endeavor to buoy up its prospects.


In the public opinion polls conducted by media outlets on or after Dec. 7, the cabinet support rate has dropped across the board compared with the November polls. The smallest drop was the 2.2 percentage point fall found in the Sankei Shimbun-Fuji News Network poll (conducted on Dec. 8–9). The largest drop was the 6 point drop in the Yomiuri Shimbun poll (conducted on Dec. 14–16). The administration is viewing the results in a coolheaded fashion, saying, “These results are within the range we had anticipated,” but others are taking a harsher view.


Many say that the cause of the drop is the revised immigration legislation, which was passed on Dec. 8 at the extraordinary Diet session. In addition to leaving the details of the design of the new system up to government and ministerial ordinance, there were errors in the data the Ministry of Justice presented to the Diet. In the Mainichi Shimbun poll, the majority of respondents said that they “do not approve” of the passage of the bill. Those close to the Prime Minister say that “this was impacted by the media reports that said the legislation is shoddy.”


It also looks like the results were impacted by the ruling parties’ hardline stance of holding meetings of the Lower House Committee on Judicial Affairs on consecutive days by having the chairman exercise his official authority to call meetings. If a bill that the opposition parties greatly oppose were carried over to the ordinary session, it could have a negative impact on the unified local elections. “We knew that so we did not want to postpone things,” says a Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight.


Regarding the Futenma issue, the government started earth-pouring operations on Dec. 14 off the coast of the Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa Prefecture, overriding opposition from Okinawa Prefecture. In the Mainichi poll, however, the majority of respondents said they are “opposed” to the landfill work. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama criticized the administration, saying “The Abe administration is stonehearted toward Okinawa and has not a shred of humility in regard to the rule of law and the sentiment Okinawans have expressed.”


At a meeting of the LDP Judicial Affairs Division held on Dec. 17, there were numerous questions about the government’s statement that it is considering 14 industries for the introduction of more foreign workers. “Why is it 14 industries?” they asked. At a press conference on Dec. 17, Japanese Communist Party secretariat head Akira Koike hinted he will continue to pursue the issue at the ordinary Diet session, saying, “The cabinet support rate will drop further when the Diet resumes.”

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