Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said that he attributes the decline in the support rate of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet to media coverage and criticism of the controversial special secrets protection bill in the Diet. The Japanese parliament recently passed a state secrets bill into law that would allow the government to designate information as confidential government secrets, and apply harsh punishment to those who leak it.
“Agreement had been reached to amend the bill and we thought we’d built consensus in Diet deliberations, but the way media outlets reported on the issue was different,” Suga told a press conference on Dec. 16, alluding to the opinion that media criticism of the legislation affected the results of opinion polls taken immediately after the bill was expedited through the Diet. “The major reason for the drop in approval ratings is that the effect and the significance of the special secrets protection law hadn’t accurately come across to the public,” Suga said.
A number of lawmakers have come out saying that more explanations are needed. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba – who became a target of public outrage when he compared those who were protesting against the law to “terrorists” – told a meeting of the government and the ruling parties, “There are many lessons to be learned from the extraordinary Diet session. We’d like to reflect on them well before starting the Diet session.” Ishiba had later retracted and apologized for his comments. New Komeito Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue said, “We should give detailed explanations (about the law to the public) even after the law has been enacted.”
The government, however, is still positive about the approval rating of the Cabinet, showing that they do not believe it is a crisis in spite of criticism from opposition forces over the drop in the popularity rating. Suga stressed the Abe administration’s achievements at the press conference, saying, “It’s only been less than a year since the LDP regained power, during which time stock prices rose 60-70 percent.” One government source even hailed the latest support rate, saying, “It is rare for an administration to be told that its support rate has dropped while the rate still hovers around 50 percent,” comparing it to the past sagging approval rate just before the ruling parties went into opposition in 2009.
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