September 14, 2015 / 2:42 AM / in 2 years

Thousands protest against PM's move to let Japanese troops fight abroad

People hold placards denouncing Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security-related legislation during an anti-government rally in Tokyo July 24, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

TOKYO (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters rallied in Tokyo against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security policy on Monday as the government aims to enact legislation this month that would allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War Two.

Participants including Nobel literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe and leaders of main opposition parties gathered in front of the parliament building, waving glow sticks and holding up placards reading “no war” and “scrap war legislation.”

Protesters broke through metal barriers after scuffling with police and streamed onto the street in front of parliament.

Organizers said the protesters numbered 45,000. A police spokesman said the Metropolitan Police Department did not give estimates for the size of the protest.

A similar rally on Sunday, Aug. 30 attracted about 120,000 people, according to the organizers.

Abe’s ruling bloc wants to pass the security bills before parliament ends its session on Sept. 27. A vote in the upper house is expected this week.

“Abe’s government is currently not listening to the voices of the people, and many things are being pulled back to the past in a bad way. So I can’t keep quiet,” said protester Yasuko Yanagihara, 69.

A poll carried out at the weekend and published on Monday by the Asahi Shimbun daily showed 54 percent of respondents opposed the legislation against 29 percent who backed it, and 68 percent saw no need to enact the bills during the current session.

Three-quarters of the respondents said the debate had been insufficient, in line with other surveys.

A separate survey by public broadcaster NHK also showed more than twice as many people polled were against the passage of the legislation in the current parliament session as those who support it.

Abe’s ruling bloc has a majority in the upper house, but opposition parties have said they will use all possible means to prevent a vote, including delaying procedures by submitting time-consuming non-confidence and censure motions.

Support for Abe’s government fell to 36 percent, the Asahi survey showed, the lowest rate since he took office in December 2012 and down from 38 percent in last month’s poll.

The NHK survey showed, however, support for the government rose by six percentage points from the previous poll in August to 43 percent.

Abe last week won a rare second consecutive term as a ruling party chief, and hence premier, pledging to retain focus on reviving the world’s third-largest economy and deepen debate on revising its pacifist constitution.

Reporting by Yiyuan Wang, Teppei Kasai, Kaori Kaneko, Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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