August 10, 2015 / 4:09 AM / 4 years ago

Japan PM Abe's support slips, majority oppose nuclear restart

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters after meeting with Yoshiro Mori (not in picture), Japan's former Prime Minister and president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of Olympic and Paralympic games, at Abe's official residence in Tokyo July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has slipped to just over 30 percent and a majority oppose the planned restart of a nuclear reactor that went offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, a poll by the Mainichi newspaper showed on Monday.

The three-point decline to 32 percent - the lowest since Abe returned to office in December 2012 - comes as voters fret over a shift in security policy that would end a ban on the military fighting overseas to defend a friendly country. That could let Japan’s troops fight abroad for the first time since World War Two.

Abe’s ratings began dropping sharply after scholars told a parliamentary panel in June the legislation would violate Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution. Abe says the change will boost deterrence and make war less likely but critics fear Japan could get embroiled in a U.S.-led conflict.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to the weekend survey opposed Kyushu Electric Power Co’s restart of a reactor at its Sendai plant in southwest Japan, set for Tuesday. Thirty percent supported the reboot, the first in nearly two years, which will reopen the nuclear sector.

Opposition to Abe was higher among women than men. Only 26 percent of female voters backed his government compared to 40 percent of men.

Japan’s fragmented opposition parties, however, are not benefiting from Abe’s woes. Support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was flat at 28 percent but that of the main opposition Democratic Party was just 9 percent.

Nor has any LDP rival so far indicated a desire to challenge Abe in a party leadership election that must be held next month.

Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Alan Raybould

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