World

Abe agrees to inquiry after support sinks

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has agreed to be questioned by the opposition in the Diet over an unrelenting cronyism scandal.

It is a remarkable volte-face as a poll showed that support for his government has fallen further - to the lowest since he took power, reported The Straits Times.

He had flatly refused a Diet inquiry into allegations that he pulled strings to help an institute win approval to set up Japan's first veterinary school in 52 years.

A opinion poll released on Friday showed that the support has fallen below 30 per cent, the lowest since he returned to power in 2012, Reuters reported.

Suspicion of scandal over favouritism for a friend's business and a perception among voters that he and his aides have grown arrogant have taken a toll on Mr Abe, who until recently was favoured to win a third three-year term as party leader - and hence, premier - when his current term expires in September 2018.

Support for Mr Abe's government fell 15.2 points from a month earlier, sliding to 29.9 per cent, according to a public opinion survey on July 7 to 10 by Jiji Press news agency.

"We cannot trust the Prime Minister" was the main reason - given by 67.3 per cent - for his loss of popularity, Jiji Press said. Other reasons people gave included a dislike of his policies and the fact that "nothing can be expected".

The poll is the latest to show Mr Abe's support at the lowest since he returned to office in December 2012, promising to revive the flagging economy, bolster defences and revise the pacifist constitution.

In a bid to turn the tide, Mr Abe is considering a wholesale cabinet shake-up on Aug 3, the media has reported.

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