As Japan struggles to stem the spread of a coronavirus within its borders, critics are asking, “Where’s Abe?” Shinzo Abe, 65, Japan’s longest serving prime minister, has failed to take the helm as the public face of the response to the virus, critics say, leaving the task largely to his health minister. Now doubts about Abe’s leadership threaten to erode already sagging public support, with a newspaper survey at the weekend showing disapproval for his administration outweighing approval for the first time since July 2018. That, in turn, could upset rosy scenarios where Abe presides over a successful Tokyo Olympics set to start in July, leads his party to an election victory and perhaps even wins a rare fourth term at the Sept. 2021 end of his tenure as ruling party leader. “Where is the leadership?” asked Gerry Curtis, an expert in Japanese politics. “Even now, he’s not out there, not talking to the public and mobilising people,” added Curtis, an emeritus professor at Columbia University. “I think this will hurt him the longer it goes on.” Abe has weathered several rough spots since he returned to office in December 2012. But his support, already dented by recent scandals, including a row over too many supporters invited to a pricey party to view cherry blossoms, fell 8.4 points to 36.2% in the conservative Sankei newspaper’s survey published at the weekend. His non-approval rate rose 7.8 points to 46.7%. Voters were split over the government’s response to the virus, with 85 percent saying they worried about the disease. “Although the people’s anxiety is growing daily, he (Abe) hasn’t held a proper news conference,” said a Twitter user with the handle @yumidesu. “In other words, if he appears more often, only a bad image will remain, so, to avoid that, he is appearing in public as little as possible.” CRITICAL STAGE Japan has drawn heavy criticism for its handling of a virus outbreak on the U.K.-registered cruise ship Diamond Princess that caused 691 infections, killing four passengers, since the vessel docked near Tokyo on Feb. 3. Concern has also grown as the tally of domestically-transmitted cases has swelled past 159, including one death. 全文
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