Free fall

If there were any lingering doubts about the drop in the Abe Cabinet’s popularity, the latest Yomiuri poll should dispel those — Yomiuri found that the government’s popularity fell to 32.9%, and its unfavorable rating rose to 53.7%.

It also confirmed the Asahi‘s finding that the LDP and DPJ are running even in electoral districts, and that the DPJ is leading in the proportional representation race.

Also interesting is that Yomiuri tries to spin a 51% approval rating for the government’s response to the pensions scandal — when 42% said they were opposed to the government’s response.

The substantial drop prompted a Yomiuri editorial chock full of hand-wringing about growing voter distrust of “dirty politics,” and calling on the government to do something about it, while at the same time suggesting that making a political issue of the pensions “leakage” could invite voter backlash — so the government and opposition should hammer out an agreement. How about that: the people might get mad at the government’s incompetence, so the parties should just agree now and get it out of the way, so the voters don’t do something rash. After all, argues Yomiuri, there are important issues for the government to discuss.

Another article (not online), however, suggests that the LDP has greeted this news with a rising sense of alarm. But as the Economist suggests, Abe’s position as party president may be protected by virtue of his lacking a successor. Much like his grandfather, Abe may be able to plow ahead with his agenda, regardless of opposition inside and outside the LDP, by virtue of no one’s being able to stop him. But that’s a remarkably precarious position; while he may last through the election, how long will the LDP stick with him if he fails to win? And even if Abe survives, a weakened Abe Cabinet would undoubtedly depend more heavily on the LDP’s power brokers. (Or, as Jun Okumura suggests, Kamei Shizuka, onetime LDP faction head and current Kokumin Shinto boss.)

And it seems that playing the statesman will not help Abe this time. As (London) Times correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry writes, Abe, like many Japanese prime ministers past, has failed to make much of an impression internationally, and is coming home empty-handed.

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