In a democracy, it is the people’s opinions that can make or break your career. Recently a poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japan has shown Shinzo Abe to be failing at doing the political tango. The poll gave Abe a 33% approval rate from those questioned, down 5% from a poll conducted a week earlier. Another poll by the Jiji News agency showed Abe to be in even more dire straits with a 29.9% approval rate as of a survey conducted between July 7th and 10th.
But why? Well, Premier Abe and his party recently suffered a shock loss in the Tokyo Gubernatorial elections, in which an opposition alliance led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and her Tokyoites First Party won 72 of the 127 Tokyo seats, along with their smaller allies. This combined with wavering confidence within Abe’s Ministers have prompted him to schedule a possible cabinet re-shuffle on August 3rd. This no doubt has had a negative impact on public perceptions of the Prime Minister outside of Tokyo. Whilst Koike did not call out Abe, as a former member of the LDP, the creation of her own new party and its successful win over the LDP was a sure blow to the Prime Minister’s confidence. At least with Tokyoites.
Links between Abe’s wife Akie Abe and a private ultra-nationalist kindergarten were found as she became the honorary head master of the school. This later led to information arising she had provided $9000 in private donations but that the school land had been brought at a noticeably marked down price, which resulted in finger pointing at Abe. The sight of young children chanting imperialist and xenophobic tunes was enough to garner negative international attention on Abe aiding his lowering in the polls.
Similarly, the PM has been accused of favoritism giving preferential status to businesses reportedly owned or run by people that he is friendly with. Both these scandals have not helped Abe’s image of stability that he has sought to promote for two terms now.
There are also rumors Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kishida Fumio who is believed to be a strong contender for LDP leadership against the Prime Minister will be stepping down. Abe has done quite a few things in his long tenure as Prime Minister such as campaigning for changing aspects of the constitution’s article 9 to be more relaxed, allowing for greater military activity and size. Perhaps this may just be the natural change in public perception when a leader has been around as long as he has. Certainly, for a country that between 2000 and 2012 had 8 Prime Ministers (one of which being Abe) perhaps this is the natural progression of politics in Japan.
With both the Left Wing paper, Asahi Shimbun showing a lowering of approval ratings as well as the more conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, one thing can be certain. Premier Abe will certainly be debating his position as well as formulating his next move.