Japan Scandals Drag Abe's Support Down Toward Danger Zone

(Bloomberg) -- Shinzo Abe’s approval rating fell again amid allegations of cronyism and government cover-ups, placing new pressure on the Japanese prime minister to stage yet another comeback or risk losing his grip over the ruling party.

Abe’s popularity fell to a record low of 26.7 percent in a survey by Nippon TV published Sunday, as a steady drip of new details on a series of scandals threatens his agenda. He’s been forced to reiterate denials of any involvement in the scandals, and thousands of demonstrators gathered outside parliament at the weekend to call for his resignation.

The below chart by Bloomberg Economics’ Yuki Masujima shows support for Abe is in danger of dropping into the historical danger zone of below an average 30 percent across polls.

The yen gained against the dollar amid rising political risks surrounding Abe. Japan’s benchmark Topix gauge briefly dipped into negative territory before ending the day higher.

Abe, 63, had until recently been expected to sail through a leadership election for the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September, giving him a chance of becoming the country’s longest-ever serving premier. A poll published by the Asahi newspaper Monday showed respondents would prefer to see former Defense Minister and Abe critic Shigeru Ishiba as the next leader.

“He’s in danger in terms of the leadership election,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo. “If he resigned earlier, that would mean a general election, and that would not be good for the LDP.”

The School Scandal Haunting Japan Prime Minister Abe: QuickTake

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who was Abe’s mentor, sees the possibility of the premier stepping down in June when the current parliament session ends. Koizumi told the Shukan Asahi magazine in an interview that the administration is "in danger" and Abe won’t be able to secure a third term as party leader.

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