- Despite his handling of the coronavirus, Japanese have not rallied around Abe.
- For the Japanese opposition, Abe's actions during the pandemic have become a pretext for resistance.
- Abe's approval ratings have plummeted due to a scandal in his cabinet.
Japan, with a population of 125 million people, lifted its state of emergency ahead of schedule. The coronavirus has, so far, killed fewer than 900 people in Japan. The low mortality rate is considered a great success. But where are the shrinking ratings of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the outcry calling for his resignation?
There are examples of natural disasters, national tragedies, and wars that have had a positive effect on the ruling parties and the ratings of politicians. However, experts are divided on the issue. In times of crisis, people usually unite to face a common threat. Therefore, support for the president and prime ministers will increase. The pandemic was a big test for world leaders.
Some took control of the situation quickly, while others looked back and watched the situation progress and moved late. The coronavirus cases and deaths, problems with testing, and efforts to stop its spread, such as restrictive measures, have to some extent undermined the dignity of those in power. In some cases, effective governance in times of crisis has backfired.
He wanted the Olympics, not a Pandemic
From the beginning, Japan was not lucky. One-third of the country’s 125 million people are over the age of 65. While the new coronavirus has hit the elderly especially hard, the situation in Japan would be dire. However, the country has emerged with great success.
When the virus began spreading to Tokyo in early April, the government took no action. Only patients with symptoms of the virus were tested. At that time, the government of neighboring South Korea began mass testing. The number of infections was drastically reduced by finding contacts of patients and immediately isolating them.
On April 7, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Japan. Abe had no right to impose quarantine measures across the country. Therefore, he urged citizens to stay at home and not go to public places. As a precautionary measure, the government began urging citizens to wear two masks. There were those who mocked it because of the small size of the mask, making it difficult to cover the nose and mouth.
In April, a poll by the Yomiuri newspaper, which usually backs the Prime Minister’s policies, showed Abe with an approval rating of only 42%, his lowest in two years. By May 23, Abe’s rating had dropped to 27%, according to a poll by the Mainichi Shimbun daily. The opposition is now demanding Abe’s resignation.
For the Japanese opposition, Abe’s actions during the pandemic have become a pretext for resistance. Initially, the Prime Minister was protesting against the decision to isolate passengers on the ship Diamond Princess. He was later criticized for hoping to host the Summer Olympics without assessing the threat.
Later, Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office chief Hiromu Kurokawa’s reputation was tarnished. During the restrictions, the prosecutor reported that he and his friends went gambling, which is banned in the country. As a result, Kurokawa, a candidate for the post of Attorney General, resigned from his post in Tokyo.
“The problem here was that the leaders of the Japanese prefectures were actively fighting the coronavirus. In the face of Abe’s actions, they were especially visible,” said Sean Kertin, a researcher at the Japan Institute for Global Communications. Curtin recalls that in 2007, Abe served as prime minister for a year before resigning.
At the time, Abe argued that he had to leave for health reasons. But even then, his popularity had plummeted. The reason was a corruption scandal in the Ministry of Agriculture. Suddenly, in 2012, he became prime minister again. Many thought that this was the end of his political career. In fact, experts say he has been in high office for a long time.
According to the Washington Post, before the coronavirus, the political careers of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South Korean President Moon Jae-in were considered to be at their peak. The South Korean leader has been urged to resign, saying economic growth has stalled.
Angela Merkel had announced prior to the pandemic that she will not run for another term. But now both leaders have set an example to the world during the pandemic. As a result, Merkel’s rating is around 60 percent. This figure has not been reached since 2017. The situation was quite different in the United States. In three months, 100,000 people have died from the coronavirus.