Japan voters back new PM cabinet, economy top priority

TOKYO Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:24am IST

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front C) and his cabinet ministers prepare for a photo session after their first cabinet meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo December 26, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front C) and his cabinet ministers prepare for a photo session after their first cabinet meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo December 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO (Reuters) - More than half of Japanese voters support new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet, media surveys published on Friday showed, with the country's stagnant economy topping the list of problems voters want the hawkish new leader to tackle.

Abe took office on Wednesday, after his conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) landslide election victory this month, promising to revive the world's third-biggest economy with bold monetary easing and big spending by the debt-laden government.

Support for Abe's cabinet, which is packed with allies who share his conservative views but leavened with some party rivals, ranged from 52 percent in a survey by the Mainichi newspaper to 65 percent in a poll by the Yomiuri newspaper.

Fixing the economy, now in its fourth recession since 2000, was voters' top priority. Forty-eight percent of voters in a survey by the Asahi newspaper put the economy as their first priority, compared with 11 percent who stressed security issues, which are also a key element of Abe's platform.

Abe, 58, wants to revise Japan's post-World War Two constitution limits on the military so Tokyo can play a bigger global security role, but only 32 percent of voters in the Asahi poll backed the move compared to 53 percent who opposed.

Voters were split over the LDP's post-Fukushima nuclear disaster energy policy, with 46 percent in favour of its plan to restart off-line nuclear reactors that are confirmed safe and 45 percent opposed, the Yomiuri said.

Abe, who quit abruptly in 2007 after a troubled year in office during which his early high support rates crumbled, is all too aware of the need to show results quickly ahead of a July election for parliament's powerful upper house.

The LDP and its smaller coalition partner won the two-thirds majority in the lower house that allows them to enact bills rejected by the upper chamber, where they lack a majority, but that process is cumbersome.

"We are getting firm support for our practical response," the Yomiuri quoted Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP's No.2 leader, as saying. "We must achieve results so that we can maintain this support."

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Michael Perry)

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