TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party showed a strong lead in opinion polls released on Monday ahead of Japan’s general election next month, despite a majority of respondents giving a thumbs down to his economic blitz.
Japan’s lower parliamentary chamber was dissolved on Friday ahead of the election that Abe says will be a referendum on his faltering economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics.”
Thirty-five percent of those polled said they would vote for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its candidates in the December 14 lower house election, while just 9 percent supported the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
A large number of votes were still up for grabs, with the poll —jointly carried out by the Nikkei Business Daily and TV Tokyo over the weekend — showing 45 percent of the 1,031 households surveyed as undecided.
But a majority of respondents disapproved of the prime minister’s bid to stimulate growth in Japan’s lagging economy, with 51 percent opposing his approach and just 33 percent endorsing it.
Abe, who is going to the polls less than halfway through a four-year term, earlier said he wanted voters’ endorsement for his decision to postpone a sales tax rise slated for next year, after data last week showed an earlier levy hike knocked the world’s number three economy into recession.
Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they had felt the positive impact of an economic recovery over the past two years, with an overwhelming 75 percent saying they had not.
Forty-four percent said they expect “Abenomics” to spur a recovery or wage hikes, while 49 percent say they have no such hopes, according to the survey.
A separate weekend opinion poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed 37 percent of respondents plan to vote for the ruling LDP in the upcoming election, against 11 percent in favor of the opposition DPJ.
Abe runs the risk of undermining his authority if his coalition’s majority is reduced too much in the election.
Some commentators say that the vote is a fig leaf to cover the prime minister’s attempt to consolidate his own position within his fractious LDP, and to fend off challengers in a party leadership election scheduled for September next year.