Japan's Abe pledges to regain public trust as ratings slump


Reuters

UPDATE 1-Japan's Abe pledges to regain public trust as ratings slump


(Recasts with comment from PM Abe news conference)
    By Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi TakenakaTOKYO, June 19 (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe, his ratings battered by suspicion he helped a friend get
favoured treatment for a business, and criticism that he used
strong-arm tactics in parliament, vowed on Monday to regain the
people's trust.
    Abe also said he would start thinking "carefully" about
reshuffling his cabinet and key party posts to get the right
people to push ahead with reforms.
    But he did not confirm a Nikkei business daily report that
he would do so in August or September, and would retain Finance
Minister Taro Aso and ally Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga.
    A slew of public opinion polls have showed support for Abe's
cabinet slumping sharply, with the Mainichi newspaper reporting
that his ratings had fallen 10 points to 36 percent, the biggest
drop since he took office in December 2012.
    Non-support for Abe rose to 44 percent, the first time it
surpassed the percentage of backers since October 2015, after
parliament enacted controversial security laws expanding the
scope for military activities overseas, the Mainichi said.
    Last week, the education ministry unearthed documents that
the opposition said suggested Abe wanted a new veterinary school
run by a friend to be approved in a state-run special economic
zone. The ministry had earlier said it could not find the
documents but reopened the investigation under public pressure.
    Abe has denied abusing his authority to benefit his friend.
On Monday, he repeated that procedures had not been "distorted"
but acknowledged the government needed to win back public trust.
    "We must calmly explain each policy one by one so we can win
the trust of Japanese citizens," Abe told a news conference
marking the end of parliament's latest session on Sunday.
    "I have renewed my determination to do so."

    'ARROGANCE'
    Opposition politicians and media have identified Abe's
friend as Kotaro Kake, the director of the Kake Educational
Institution, which plans to open a veterinary department. The
government has not approved new veterinary schools for decades
because of concern about a glut of veterinarians.
    Almost three-quarters of voters in the Mainichi survey were
not convinced by the government's insistence there was nothing
wrong with the approval process.
    The institution has said it had acted appropriately.
    Voters were split over parliament's enactment of a law to
penalise conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious
crimes.
    But many expressed distaste for the ruling coalition's
tactics in rushing the bill through parliament.
    The ruling bloc took the rare step of skipping a vote in
committee and going directly to a full upper house session.
    Experts said voters were irked at signs Abe was guilty of
hubris after more than four years in office with no serious
rivals, but for now they were betting he could ride out the
storm.
    "The public doesn't like the arrogance, but they don't like
the alternatives even more than they don't like Abe," said
Columbia University professor emeritus Gerry Curtis.
    Ruling Liberal Democratic Party support far outstripped that
of the opposition Democratic Party, the polls showed.

 (Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert
Birsel)
 ((linda.sieg@thomsonreuters.com; 81-3-6441-1881; Reuters
Messaging: linda.sieg.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: JAPAN POLITICS/ (UPDATE 1, PIX, TV)



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