(Bloomberg) -- The support rate for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hit new lows in three major polls, putting further pressure on his leadership as he tries to push an extra budget through parliament to support his latest economic package.
Polls released Monday by three of Japan’s biggest newspapers — the Yomiuri, Asahi and Mainichi — showed Kishida’s support rate at 24%, 25% and 21%, respectively. The levels are all below the 30% mark seen as a danger zone for Japanese premiers and are likely to fuel speculation that Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may consider making a change at the top. The LDP is due to hold a leadership election next September.
“You can’t simply switch between joy and despair in response to polls,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said, acknowledging the survey figures were a tough assessment of the government and its stimulus measures. “Instead, you must resolutely get on with the tasks that can’t be put off — that’s the prime minister’s basic thinking in my view.”
The surveys were conducted while Kishida was in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where he held talks with leaders including US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden invited Kishida to a state visit early next year. Japanese prime ministers often see a rise in support after international events, which boost their diplomatic profile.
But the surveys showed respondents are not enamored with Kishida’s plans for a ¥40,000 ($267) tax rebate next year and handouts for low-income households to help cope with rising prices. That’s been dismissed by some poll respondents as a temporary attempt to curry favor, while others have expressed concern about the deeply indebted country’s fiscal situation.
Suzuki said the intentions and aims of the latest economic package haven’t been sufficiently conveyed to the public and weren’t therefore gaining traction with them.
Parliamentary debate on a cabinet-approved extra budget to fund measures in the package worth more than ¥17 trillion is scheduled to start Monday. Japan has the highest public debt load among advanced economies after years of spending beyond its means. The extra bond issuance needed to fund the extra budget will add to those debts.
Chief government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno also referred to a string of resignations by officials and said the government would take that on board and work with a heightened sense of urgency.
Kishida has dismissed calls for an early election this year so he can implement his economic plan, Kyodo News reported. With the support rates for opposition parties mired in single digits, the long-ruling LDP is almost certain to stay in power after the next election.
The prime minister has the right to call the vote whenever he wishes before the term for members of the lower house of parliament ends in 2025.
--With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa and Emi Urabe.
(Adds comments from government spokesman and finance minister)
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