Public support plunges for Japan PM over defence bills

Public support plunges for Japan PM over defence bills
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a lower house special committee session on security-related legislation at the parliament in Tokyo July 15, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - Support for the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has plunged to an all-time low after it pushed unpopular defence bills through parliament despite public anger, according to a new poll.

Public approval for the Cabinet slumped to 35 per cent - its lowest point since Mr Abe came to power at the end of 2012 and down seven points from two weeks ago - according to a poll published Sunday in the Mainichi Shimbun.

Meanwhile, the government's disapproval rating surged eight points to 51 per cent, added the newspaper, which has been critical of the nationalist premier.

Japan's lower house of parliament on Thursday passed controversial security bills that would expand the role of the military and could see Japanese troops fighting abroad for the first time since World War II.

The change marks a historic turning point for Japan, which has used its well-funded military frequently for disaster relief missions but has kept out of combat zones because of a clause in its US-imposed constitution.

The bills have been sent to the upper house for review, but the lower house can override any conflicting verdict.

The approval was seen as a victory for nationalist Prime Minister Abe and other right-wingers, but the issue has galvanised public opinion and opponents say the bills are unconstitutional and undermine 70 years of national pacifism.

The day before the Thursday vote, as many as 60,000 people took part in a rally outside parliament where scuffles broke out with police and two men in their 60s were arrested on suspicion of assaulting officers - a rarity in orderly Japan.

"Public criticism is strengthening against the defence bills. The way the government and the ruling party (has) handled the issue is seen to have dragged down the cabinet's approval rating," the Mainichi said.

The survey came a day after another from Kyodo News that showed the Abe government's approval rating falling to 37.7 per cent, from 47.4 per cent a month ago. The disapproval rating rose to 51.6 per cent, compared with 43.0 per cent last month.

Both polls asked around 1,000 people and were conducted by telephone on Friday and Saturday.

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