Cabinet reshuffle fails to impress


Figures from opinion polls suggest that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s reshuffle on Friday has failed to impress voters.

A poll for the Nikkei business newspaper published on Sunday says that the government’s rating is still on 37%, the same as last month. Two other polls suggest a decline of between two and five percentage points.

In another poll for the Kyodo News Agency, 79.5% of those interviewed said that they opposed the proposed increase in consumption tax from 5% to 10% which is planned for this year. In the Yomiuri Shimbu their poll suggests that 55% oppose the tax and in the Asahi Shimbun the figure is 57%.

Whatever the figures, the prime minister faces an uphill task. Japan’s debt stands at around 200% of GDP and is set to rise to 230% by 2013 (according to the OECD) unless there are dramatic changes. He has also suffered from an intransigent opposition; the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have so far refused to cooperate on the tax hike, despite 66% of their supporters saying the party should engage with the government in discussions over the tax hike. Noda has also seen his party lose nine lawmakers who formed a new party, Kizuna, earlier this month.

One piece of good news for the prime minister is that his decision to make Katsuya Okada his Deputy Prime Minister, and put him in charge of discussions on the tax increases has resonated with a large proportion of the population; around 50% of those polled approved of the move.

Another piece of good news for Noda is that his poor showing has not resulted in any change in the opposition’s popularity; the LDP has a 17% popularity rating.

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