Japan’s Kishida Gets Lowest Support for a New Premier Since 2008

By BLOOMBERG

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was at 49% in a survey by a major newspaper, the lowest for a new leader in 13 years and an ominous sign as he heads into a national election in a little over three weeks. 

The Mainichi newspaper survey that published Tuesday, a day after Kishida took office, found support plumbed depths for an incoming premier not seen since Taro Aso scored 45% when he took over as leader amid the financial crisis in 2008. Aso served less than a year and his long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was then ousted from power.

Asked whether they had positive expectations for Kishida’s cabinet, 51% of respondents said they did not, while 21% said they did, the Mainichi survey showed. More than half of respondents said they didn’t approve of the appointment of Akira Amari, a member of Aso’s faction who is also seen as a close confidant of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as the LDP’s No. 2.

Kishida fared better in a poll by Kyodo News that put support for his cabinet at 55.7%, which was lower than the 66.4% tallied by his predecessor Yoshihide Suga just after he took over about a year ago. Suga dropped a plan to run for re-election as his support slid amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic. 

Kishida has called for a general election on Oct. 31 that could set the tone for his tenure. Due to the LDP’s powerful political machine, the premier’s ruling coalition is all but certain to retain a parliamentary majority, but any major gains by the opposition could hobble Kishida from the start, and increase the odds he joins a long list of short-serving premiers.

Kishida defeated three rivals to become LDP leader, even though he wasn’t the most popular choice with the public or the party’s rank-and-file. Suga’s cabinet boasted approval of 64% when he took over just over a year ago, the Mainichi said, falling to 37% just before he stepped down.  

The Mainichi poll was conducted by phone Monday and Tuesday, and 1,035 valid responses were obtained, the newspaper said, without providing details on a margin of error.