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Public divided over PM Abe serving third-term as LDP president: poll

Respondents to a Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll were divided over whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should serve his third consecutive term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with 45 percent of pollees saying he should do so while 41 percent opposed.

The nationwide telephone survey, conducted over the March 11-12 weekend, came after the LDP formally decided to extend its maximum presidential tenure from the previous two consecutive three-year terms to three successive three-year terms at a party convention on March 5. The party rule change has opened the way for Prime Minister Abe to retain the party leadership beyond his second term that expires in September next year.

According to the poll, 73 percent of LDP supporters were in favor of Abe serving his third term. Meanwhile, many of those who support the opposition Democratic Party or the Japanese Communist Party, or those who have no party affiliation, said Abe should be replaced as LDP president after his second term.

With regard to an "anti-terrorism bill" that the government is looking to submit to the current Diet session -- or a more targeted version of anti-conspiracy bills that have been rejected in the Diet three times in the past -- 41 percent of respondents voiced opposition while 30 percent was in favor. The government has narrowed down crimes punishable under the bill to 277 from the initial 676, but opposition parties still decry the bill saying general members of the public would be subject to investigation.

In a January Mainichi Shimbun poll, 53 percent were in favor of the anti-terrorism bill while 30 percent were against it, though survey questions were different in the two surveys and the results cannot be simply compared. In the latest poll, 29 percent gave no response to the question, raising the possibility that the content of the planned revision has not sufficiently got across to members of the general public.

In regard to the government's move to ban smoking at restaurants except for small bars through legal revision to better combat secondhand smoke ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, 58 percent of pollees were in favor of the proposed regulation, while 23 percent viewed it as "too strict" and 5 percent said it was "too lax."

The respondent-driven sampling survey covered 1,597 households with eligible voters in areas except for the so-called "difficult-to-return zones" in Fukushima Prefecture where radiation levels remain high, and obtained responses from 1,012 people. The response rate was 63 percent.

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