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Japan PM's support rebounds after difficult debate over security laws

Monday, November 30, 2015 - 11:22
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Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rebounded from lows touched after the passage of controversial security laws that will allow the military to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two, media surveys showed.

[TOKYO] Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rebounded from lows touched after the passage of controversial security laws that will allow the military to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two, media surveys showed.

Voters still see no need to rush to revise the pacifist constitution, admired by many as the source of Japan's post-war peace but seen by critics as a symbol of defeat that hampers the nation's ability to defend itself, another opinion poll showed.

Support for Abe's cabinet rose eight points to 49 per cent in a weekend survey by the Nikkei business daily, a level not seen since debate over the security laws intensified last summer.

A Kyodo news agency poll showed a rise of 3.5 points to 48.3 per cent. The rises appeared to reflect approval of Abe's pledge to refocus on Japan's flagging economy ahead of an upper house election next year.

Abe has said the security legislation, enacted in September, was vital to meet new challenges, which include a rising China. Critics said the changes violated the pacifist constitution and increased the risk of involvement in foreign conflicts.

Support for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was at 36.7 per cent, more than three times that for the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the Kyodo poll.

Almost as many - 35.9 per cent - said they supported no particular party, a sign many dissatisfied with Abe and the LDP felt that the opposition did not provide a viable alternative.

Despite the heated debate over the security bills, 58 per cent of those responding to an Asahi newspaper survey welcomed passage of the changes, against 27 per cent who did not.

The same survey, however, showed that 57 per cent felt there was no need to rush to revise the constitution - a long-held goal of Abe and the LDP - compared with 34 per cent who said changes should be made soon.

Revising the US-drafted charter requires support from two-thirds of the members of both houses of parliament and a majority of those voting in a public referendum - a hurdle never yet cleared.

REUTERS