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Cabinet approval rating at 26%, lowest since Abe returned to power in 2012: poll

The approval rating of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plunged to 26 percent in the latest Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll, a 10-point decline from the previous survey last month.

The Mainichi Shimbun carried out the nationwide survey on July 22 and 23. This is the first time the support rate for the Abe Cabinet has dropped to the 20-percent level since he came back to power in December 2012. The disapproval rating, on the other hand, soared by 12 points to 56 percent. Sixty-two percent of respondents said Abe should be replaced as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) when his term expires in September next year, far exceeding the 23 percent who said he should be kept as LDP president. In a survey conducted in March this year, the figures were 41 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, 76 percent of pollees said they did not trust government explanations over the favoritism scandal involving school operator Kake Educational Institution, in which the group headed by Abe's close friend was picked to open a new veterinary department in a national strategic zone, while only 11 percent said they trusted in the government's accounting for the matter. Even among Abe Cabinet supporters, 49 percent told the Mainichi survey that they didn't believe in government explanations over the Kake group scandal, topping the 36 percent who said they did.

Prime Minister Abe is expected to tell July 24 and 25 out-of-session Diet meetings that he was not involved in the new vet school plan.

Asked about Abe's predominance in current politics, 31 percent of pollees said they wanted someone who could replace the prime minister to emerge from within the LDP. Twenty-five percent said they wanted someone who could counter Abe from opposition parties, while 23 percent said they hoped that someone who could be an opposing force against the prime minister would arise from a new political party or group. Only 7 percent said they wanted Abe to remain predominant. Among LDP supporters, 51 percent said they wanted someone to replace the current party president.

As the Abe Cabinet approval rating has dropped 10 percentage points for two months in a row, concerns are being raised within the ruling coalition over the effect of the declining support on constitutional amendment discussions.

In the latest survey, 66 percent said debate over constitutional revisions does not have to be rushed, while 22 percent said it should be swiftly pushed forward. Ever since Prime Minister Abe announced in May his goal of having a revised Constitution come into effect in 2020, the rate ratio of those who want to take a cautious stance over the issue has increased in each opinion survey.

Asked about Abe's constitutional amendment proposal, which leaves the first and second paragraphs of war-renouncing Article 9 untouched, but stipulates the existence of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, 41 percent opposed the plan, up 5 points from the June opinion poll, and 25 percent were in favor, down 2 points from June. Twenty-seven percent said they were undetermined about Abe's proposal, down 3 points from the previous survey.

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