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Abe Cabinet's support rate rises to 44.4% after reshuffle: poll

The approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet has
risen 8.6 points since mid-July to 44.4 percent after he partially
reshuffled his ministers, a Kyodo News poll showed Friday.

The nationwide telephone survey conducted Thursday and Friday
showed a turnaround in the approval rating, which last month sank to
35.8 percent, the lowest level since Abe commenced his second stint
as premier in 2012. The rate fell following a series of scandals,
including cronyism allegations against the premier.

In the survey, 45.5 percent of respondents said they positively
view the latest Cabinet reshuffle and the revamped lineup of the
ruling Liberal Democratic Party's executives, while 39.6 percent do
not.

The disapproval rating for Abe's Cabinet fell 9.9 points to 43.2
percent, almost matching the approval rating. Among those who
expressed disapproval, 56.0 percent said the prime minister cannot be
trusted, up 4.4 points.

Abe has recently come under fire due to allegations that the
prime minister used his influence to sway the approval process for a
new veterinary department of a private university run by a long-time
friend of his.

Asked about the rebound in approval ratings shown by media
outlets after the ministerial changes, Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yoshihide Suga told a press conference, "The Cabinet has just been
launched."

"We believe it will be important to achieve results in such
areas as security and economic recovery...by listening to citizens'
voices humbly," he said.

In the Cabinet reshuffle, Abe appointed veteran lawmaker Taro
Kono as foreign minister and Seiko Noda as internal affairs minister,
and reinstated Itsunori Onodera as defense minister, while
reappointing key economic ministers.

The survey showed 55.6 percent of respondents have positive
expectations for the new foreign minister, known as an ardent debater
on administrative reforms, while 61.6 percent voiced positive
expectations for Noda, who in 2015 challenged Abe for the Liberal
Democratic Party's leadership. She has been touted as potentially
Japan's first female prime minister.

The majority of respondents remained opposed to amending the
constitution under Abe, with 53.4 percent opposed, down 1.4 points,
while 34.5 percent support an amendment effort.

Regarding the matter of electing a new leader of the main
opposition Democratic Party after its current leader, Renho,
announced her resignation last week, 40.0 percent said veteran
lawmaker Seiji Maehara would be an appropriate choice, while 36.7
percent supported Yukio Edano, a former chief Cabinet secretary.
Maehara is a former foreign minister known for his conservative views
on defense and other issues.

Both Maehara and Edano have expressed their intention to run as
candidates in the party's leadership election on Sept. 1.

Asked what policies the new Cabinet should prioritize, 42.8
percent of respondents cited those related to the pension system,
healthcare and nursing care, while 37.0 percent said employment and
economic policies.

Regarding when the House of Representatives should be dissolved
for a general election, 43.0 percent said a snap election should be
called in the fall or winter of next year, shortly before the term
expires in December 2018. Some 22.0 percent called for a snap
election this year while 11.0 percent want it next spring.

By political party, Abe's LDP was supported by 39.0 percent of
respondents, up 7.1 points, and the main opposition Democratic Party
of Japan was backed by 7.3 percent, down 0.9 point.

The support rate for the Komeito party, the LDP's junior
coalition partner, stood at 5.9 percent and for the Japanese
Communist Party at 5.1 percent. A total of 37.9 percent said they do
not support any particular party.

The survey polled 725 randomly selected households with eligible
voters as well as 1,171 mobile phone numbers, and received responses
from 505 and 503 people, respectively. (Aug. 4)