May 23, 2020 / 10:27 AM / 14 days ago

Japan PM Abe's support slides as top prosecutor's resignation bites

TOKYO (Reuters) - Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet slumped to a near three-year low, a poll by the Mainichi Shimbun daily showed on Saturday, in a further setback to the premier after Tokyo’s top prosecutor quit this week over gambling.

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe taking off his face mask as he arrives to speak to the media on Japan's response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 21, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office chief Hiromu Kurokawa, who is seen as close to Abe, resigned on Thursday for gambling during Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency.

The resignation dealt a blow to Abe, whose support has waned over his handling of the pandemic.

Abe’s approval ratings dropped to 27% from 40% in the prior poll on May 6, posting the lowest reading since July 2017 when it was at 26%, according to the May 23 survey jointly conducted by the daily and the Social Survey Research Center.

Disapproval ratings surged to 64%, jumping from 45% seen in the previous survey.

Some 52% called for a harsher measure against Kurokawa, saying he should be subjected to disciplinary dismissal, the poll showed.

Kurokawa has been at the centre of a furore over the government’s efforts to raise the retirement age for prosecutors after he was allowed to stay in his post beyond retirement age of 63.

Three-fourths of respondents say Abe should be held responsible for delaying Kurokawa’s retirement since February, the poll showed.

Abe’s government this week ditched its push to enact a bill during the current session of parliament that would raise prosecutors’ retirement age to 65 from 63, and let the cabinet defer retirement of senior prosecutors for a further three years, a step critics said threatened judicial independence.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party suffered a decline in support in the poll to 25% from the previous reading of 30%, while approval ratings for opposition parties inched up only slightly.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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