Japanese PM loses his support

Support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has dropped after recent scandals, from pension system errors to the suicide of a Cabinet minister linked to corruption, as according to the results of popularity polls published Monday.

Support for Abe's Cabinet plunged to 30 percent, down 6 percentage points from a similar poll in late May, in the results of a survey taken over the weekend by national newspaper Asahi.

The disapproval rating rose to 49 percent, up from 42 percent, the Asahi said.

Abe, whose nine-month-old government has faced falling popularity and scandals, has been struggling to fix the problems ahead of crucial elections next month for the upper house of the country's Parliament.

On Friday, the lower house passed a pair of bills intended to partially resolve a problem of missing pension records, affecting about 50 million cases, and enable roughly 250,000 people to regain lost benefits.

Abe also named a replacement for scandal-tainted Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who committed suicide last Monday hours before he was to face questions in the legislature.

Matsuoka had been accused of misusing office fees and receiving illicit political donations from contractors with a government-affiliated organization.

The poll results largely reflected public criticism over the pension and Matsuoka scandals, the Asahi said.

"I hope to win back support not by being swayed by the ups and downs of opinion polls, but by pushing on with my policies," Abe told reporters late Monday. "Politics is not just about approval ratings."

"I believe this demonstrates the public's apprehensions over the pensions problem," he added.

The Asahi said it surveyed 1,045 voters by telephone on Saturday and Sunday. It did not provide a margin of error.

A separate poll released Saturday by Kyodo News agency also showed support for Abe's government dropping to a new low of 35.8 percent, down 11.8 percentage points from mid-May.

The Kyodo poll put the disapproval rate at 48.7 percent, up 10.5 points.

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