TOKYO (Reuters) – Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet rose by nine percentage points to 36% despite the recent arrest of his former justice minister on suspicion of vote-buying, a poll by the Mainichi Shimbun daily showed on Sunday.
The approval rating had fallen to 27% in the paper’s previous survey conducted soon after a senior Tokyo prosecutor who was seen close to the premier resigned in late May for gambling during Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency.
A drop in voter support below 30% is often seen as a danger sign.
The Mainichi report on its latest survey does not give specific reasons for the rebound in support, but 55% of those polled welcomed the government’s decision on Thursday to lift curbs on domestic travels.
That compares with 32% of those surveyed who said the restrictions should have remained in place.
Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Abe, and Kawai’s lawmaker wife, Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in a 2019 upper-house election.
Although support for Abe’s government rebounded, 59% of those surveyed believe Abe has heavy responsibility for the matter.
Abe has apologised to the public over the scandal, saying he felt his responsibility strongly for his appointment of Kawai to the post.
The Mainichi survey also showed that 59% of those polled do not believe the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for July and August this year but postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, can be held next year. Only 21% believe the event can be held in 2021.
Japan has not suffered the explosive surge of coronavirus infections seen in some other countries, with about 18,000 confirmed cases and 954 deaths, according to public broadcaster NHK.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Stephen Coates)