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Abe First Leader Since Koizumi to See Support Rise After 1 Month

Abe First Leader Since Koizumi to See Support Rise After 1 Month
Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister speaks with guests during a New Year's party for business leaders in Tokyo on Jan. 7, 2013. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Shinzo Abe is Japan’s first prime minister to see his popularity rise in his initial month in office in a dozen years, according to a Nikkei newspaper poll that showed voters favor his policy on monetary stimulus.

Abe’s approval rating rose six percentage points to 68 percent, according to the poll. About 45 percent of those surveyed supported his push for the 2 percent inflation target the Bank of Japan set last week, while 32 percent opposed it. Half think the next BOJ governor should support Abe’s call for “bold” monetary easing, compared with 26 percent who don’t.

Japan’s seventh leader in sixth years was elected last month on a platform calling for fiscal and monetary stimulus to end persistent deflation. He is likely to reiterate those themes in a policy speech today to open the new session of parliament with upper house elections six months away.

The yen has fallen 7.1 percent against the dollar and the Nikkei share average has risen 12.3 percent since he won the Dec. 16 election. Abe is the first prime minister to achieve a rise in support after the first month in office since Junichiro Koizumi in 2001, the Nikkei said.

On fiscal spending, 47 percent of respondents said Abe’s proposed 10.3 trillion yen ($113 billion) spending package was too large, given Japan’s ballooning debt, the Nikkei said. One fourth of respondents said the package was about right while 10 percent said it was too small.

While it has a majority in the lower house of parliament, Abe’s government needs to court the opposition-dominated upper house to ease the passage of legislation and win approval for his BOJ nominees. The prime minister aims to replace Governor Masaaki Shirakawa in April and two deputies in March with policy makers who support monetary stimulus to revive growth.

About 41 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in the July upper house vote, compared with 8 percent for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The Nikkei poll, carried out by telephone between Jan. 25-27, gained responses from 913 people. No margin of error was given.

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