Japan PM Kishida approval rating at 49%

FILE PHOTO: Japan's new prime minister Fumio Kishida delivers his first policy speech at parliament in Tokyo, Japan, October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan's new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has a 49% approval rating, lower than that of his predecessors at the start of their terms, a poll by public broadcaster NHK showed, a week after he took the top job and launched his new government.

That was well under the 62% who supported his predecessor Yoshihide Suga's administration at first, according to the NHK poll published late on Monday.

In the poll, however, support for Kishida's new government was higher than the most recent ratings of Suga, who became deeply unpopular as he struggled to contain a fifth wave of coronavirus infections.

Last month, Suga stepped down after only a year.

In his debut in parliament on Monday, Kishida defended his pro-nuclear energy policies.

He will respond to questions from opposition lawmakers on Tuesday about coronavirus responses and economic policies.

Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is heading into a general election for the lower house this month, when many voters will see bringing an end to the pandemic and rebuilding a weak economy as key priorities.

The coronavirus situation has improved, with recording the smallest number of new cases since mid-last year on Monday, but Kishida vowed to strengthen measures like expanded testing.

The ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito hold a majority in the powerful lower house, and Kishida has said he will aim to maintain that.

A Sankei Newspaper survey on Monday showed voters' solid support for the ruling LDP, at 45%, as support ratings for opposition parties hovered around single digits.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park)

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