Tokyo – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approval rating has fallen sharply, an opinion poll showed Monday, as scandals erode public confidence in a government now in its fifth year.
Abe took power in December, 2012 on the back of widespread frustration with the previous administration’s handling of the 2011 nuclear disaster and perceived mismanagement of ties with key ally the United States.
He vowed to revive the world’s third-largest economy by ending years of on-and-off deflation and pursue his pet project of amending Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution that bans it from use of force except in the strictest sense of self-defense.
But for weeks now he has been forced to deny connections with a nationalistic school operator whose purchase of state land to build a primary school at a huge discount has drawn allegations of shady dealings.
Abe has said he had no role in the transaction and has more than once vowed to resign if any connection is found.
But new twists to the scandal, which has also engulfed his defense minister, keep emerging, ensuring it remains on newspaper front pages.
The latest survey by the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper shows approval for Abe’s cabinet has dropped by 10 percentage points to 56 percent.
Though that still remains high, the daily said it marked the biggest monthly fall since he took office. Other recent polls have also shown declines.
Some 64 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents to the Yomiuri survey, conducted at the weekend, said they were not convinced by Abe’s denials. Yasunori Kagoike, the school operator, last week claimed he received a one million yen ($8,800) donation from Abe for the primary school, plans for which now have been put on ice.