Shooting of Abe may have affected Cabinet approval rate

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A hearse carrying the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passes in front of the Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday afternoon.

The fatal shooting last week of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have favorably affected the approval ratings for the Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party in the latest Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

The opinion poll, in which the approval ratings for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet and the LDP began to trend upward, also showed that the opposition parties were not able to function as a vehicle for voters critical of the Kishida administration, and highlighted the increasing fragmentation of these opposition parties.

“It is important to take seriously the people’s voice as expressed in the opinion poll and reflect this in the government’s policies,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The government aims to continue to do its utmost to address rising prices and strengthen the country’s defense capabilities. “It is a relief that we won the House of Councillors election and that the Cabinet’s approval rating has picked up,” a source close to the prime minister said.

Hiroshige Seko, secretary general for the LDP in the upper house, said at a press conference: “Political stability has been achieved. I think this is a sign of people’s expectations that the Cabinet will do its job well.”

The approval rating for Kishida’s Cabinet dropped to 57% in the previous survey in late June from 64% in early June, and there was a strong sense of concern within the government and the ruling parties that dissatisfaction with rising prices was growing. Some observers believe that people’s increasingly stern scrutiny of the government may have been tempered by the shooting of Abe.

The approval rating for the LDP improved to 44% in the latest survey, the highest since the Kishida Cabinet was inaugurated. “The confidence in the prime minister together with sympathy for Abe may have pushed up the approval rating,” a former cabinet member said.

However, the prime minister will likely continue to face a critical period going forward. There is no panacea for high prices, which is among the prime minister’s top priorities, and there are fears that prices of food and other commodities will rise further. Kishida is also expected to face difficulties coordinating among parties to drastically strengthen the country’s defense capabilities over such issues as how to secure financial resources.

Meanwhile, the opinion poll clearly showed a slump in support for the opposition parties.

“The LDP has become the sole power [in the Diet],” Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Kenta Izumi told reporters in the Diet on Tuesday. “We must increase the strength of the opposition parties one way or another.”

Fumitake Fujita, secretary general of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), also acknowledged his party’s lack of strength, saying, “I know there are many reluctant supporters of the LDP, but we were not able to become a viable alternative.”

Sanseito, which won its first seat via proportional representation in Sunday’s upper house election, surpassed the Democratic Party for the People and the Social Democratic Party in terms of the party’s support rate. The results of the survey supported the claim that the conventional opposition parties are unable to function as a vehicle for voters critical of the administration, and that this inability is accelerating the fragmentation of the opposition parties.