TOKYO -- Shigeru Ishiba, former secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), emerged as the most favored candidate for next president of the party in a Mainichi Shimbun survey over the weekend.
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The nationwide telephone poll, which was conducted on May 26 and 27, found that the largest group of respondents, at 20 percent, view Ishiba as the most appropriate figure to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as party president in the LDP leadership election scheduled for this coming September.
Following behind Ishiba was LDP Chief Deputy Secretary-General Shinjiro Koizumi, who was considered by 17 percent of respondents as best suited for the next LDP president, while Abe came in third place at 16 percent. LDP Policy Research Council chief and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda earned the next spot at 3 percent, respectively. Foreign Minister Taro Kono was less popular, backed by 2 percent of respondents.
Meanwhile, 18 percent of respondents said they had no favorite candidate for the next LDP president among those listed above. Among supporters of the LDP, Abe topped the list of the most favored candidates for the next party leader at 44 percent, followed by Ishiba at 18 percent and Koizumi at 15 percent.
The poll listed six possible candidates -- who have yet to officially announce their candidacy in the party presidential race -- based on their strong name recognition among the public and a sense of expectation for them within and outside of the LDP.
As the approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet stayed flat from the previous survey conducted in April, many of the prime minister's aides expressed a sense of relief about the support rate "bottoming out." A senior official at the prime minister's office commented, "The rates for Ishiba and Koizumi appear to be high just because the respondents in favor of them include supporters of opposition parties as well."
However, concerns were also raised within the party over the fact that the Cabinet disapproval rating exceeded the approval rating for the third consecutive month. "Harsh views toward Mr. Abe have been gradually taking root," noted a mid-ranking LDP legislator. When reached by the Mainichi, Ishiba commented on the poll, "I take the results seriously. I'd like to improve myself day by day while asking myself if I am living up to people's expectations."
With regard to the controversial work-style reform bill, which includes the introduction of upper caps on overtime and the establishment of a high-level professional labor system, wherein high-earning specialists in certain fields are exempted from upper limits on working hours, 50 percent of respondents said they were against the government and ruling coalition's plans to pass the bill into law during the current Diet session, while 27 percent of pollees were in favor. Twenty-four percent of respondents gave no responses, indicating that the bill has not gained understanding from a wide segment of the public.
As to the recently enacted law to promote gender equality in politics, which urges political parties to try as much as possible to field an equal number of male and female candidates in National Diet and local assembly elections, 44 percent of respondents supported the move to bring the number of male and female lawmakers closer to equal, while 37 percent said they did not necessarily support the law.
Among the respondents, 26 percent supported the LDP, followed by 13 percent backing the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, while the figures for Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner, and the Japanese Communist Party stood at 4 percent, respectively. Supporters of the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) accounted for 2 percent, while the figure for the recently launched Democratic Party for the People came at a mere 1 percent. Forty percent of respondents had no particular party affiliation.
(Japanese original by Yuri Hirabayashi, Poll Office, and Nozomu Takeuchi, Political News Department)