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Abe's popularity intact, handling of land scandal questioned: poll

Public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not been
significantly shaken by the scandal over alleged influence-peddling
in a cut-price land deal, even though a vast majority of respondents
to a new Kyodo News poll remain doubtful about his version of events.

The approval rating for his Cabinet slipped only to 52.4
percent, down just 3.3 percentage points from a survey on March
11-12, according to the nationwide telephone survey conducted
Saturday and Sunday.

Yet 82.5 percent of respondents said the government has not done
enough to dispel doubts concerning the sale of government land at a
huge discount for construction of a school in Osaka, or allegations
that Abe donated money to the school operator, the results released
Sunday showed.

The disapproval rate for Abe's Cabinet stood at 32.5 percent.

Only 10.7 percent believe the government has provided convincing
explanations, while 62.6 percent were "not convinced" with Abe's
denial of any involvement by himself or his wife Akie in the
controversial land deal. Just 28.7 percent said they were convinced
neither had any involvement.

Abe on Friday again dismissed accusations that he had donated 1
million yen ($8,900) to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen,
after Yasunori Kagoike, its head, repeated the accusation while
testifying as a sworn witness in parliament the previous day.

Kagoike brought a document purporting to show that Akie's aide,
at his request, made inquiries in 2015 to the Finance Ministry about
the plot of land.

The poll found that 58.7 percent said they cannot understand the
explanation given by Abe, while 30.2 percent said otherwise.

On whether Akie should testify as a sworn witness in parliament,
52 percent said the first lady should, against 42.8 percent who said
that was unnecessary.

On other key issues, 38.8 percent said they support the bill to
punish planning to carry out serious crimes, up 5.8 points after the
Cabinet approved the bill last week. Some 40.0 percent said they are
opposed to the bill.

The government is highlighting that the legislation is needed to
combat terrorism, while opponents warn that the bill could lead to
invasive state surveillance and arbitrary punishment of civic groups
and labor unions.

As for whether to allow the Japanese emperor to abdicate, as
discussed by a government panel, 57.4 percent said they support
revising the Imperial House Law to permanently allow emperors to
relinquish the throne, while 34.6 percent are in favor of enacting
legislation allowing only Japan's current monarch, Emperor Akihito,
to abdicate.

Asked about a proposal recently compiled as a Diet consensus and
calling on the government to prepare such one-off legislation, 56.2
percent said they are in favor, while 34.9 percent are opposed.

In a video message televised last summer, the emperor signaled
his hope to relinquish the throne due to his advanced age.

How to legalize the emperor's abdication has been debated as
only posthumous succession is allowed currently, as the Imperial
House Law that sets out rules for imperial affairs lacks a provision
regarding abdication.

By party, Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party remained
dominant with 42.4 percent backing it, down just 1.4 points from the
previous survey.

The support rating for the main opposition Democratic Party
stood at 8.8 percent, and for Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition
partner, at 3.8 percent.

The survey covered 1,460 randomly selected households with
eligible voters nationwide, with valid responses collected from 1,018
people. (March 26)