Japan PM Abe keeps ratings high as he pushes reflation steps

Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:42pm EST
 
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Voter support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rose to 70 percent or more in two weekend opinion polls, signaling that his drastic economic policies are winning backing and giving him a shot at becoming a rare long-term leader.

Abe, who took office in December after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party's massive election win, has promised to beat deflation and revive the long-stagnant economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending.

Abe, just back from a summit in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama, is set to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, a supporter of his aggressive monetary easing stance, as the next Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor, sources said on Monday.

Seventy percent of voters backed Abe in a survey by the Nikkei business daily, up two percentage points, while Kyodo news agency put his rating at 72.8 percent, up 6.1 points. Fifty-eight percent in the Nikkei survey agreed the next BOJ governor should be a proponent of drastic monetary easing.

The consistent high levels of support are rare for a Japanese leader, whose ratings often start high but then sink. That fate befell Abe during his troubled 2006-2007 first term.

Abe is Japan's seventh premier since popular Junichiro Koizumi ended a rare five-year term in 2006.

Abe's LDP and its junior partner have a huge majority in parliament's lower house but need to win a majority in a July upper house election to cement their hold on power.

The Nikkei survey showed that 48 percent of voters were in favor of Japan joining talks on a U.S.-led trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while 33 percent were opposed.

Abe could announce a decision to join the TPP negotiations -- staunchly opposed by Japan's powerful farm lobby -- as early as this week, media said.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Paul Tait)

 
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pauses during remarks at a reception with Japan-US Cultural Exchange Representatives in Washington, February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst