Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's support slides as Tokyo Games begin

  • Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga slid nine points to 34%, its lowest since he took office last September, a survey showed on Monday.
  • Many Japanese fear the influx of athletes and officials for the global sporting event will add to the surge in infections.
  • Suga's dream scenario had been to contain the virus outbreak, preside over a successful Games and call a general election.

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga slid nine points to 34%, its lowest since he took office last September, a survey showed on Monday, clouding his hopes the Tokyo Olympics would boost his ratings ahead of a general election this year.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the July 23-25 Nikkei business daily survey said that the country's rollout of coronavirus vaccinations was not going well.

The program has been hampered by a slow start and later supply snarls, and less than one-quarter are fully vaccinated.

Suga's dream scenario had been to contain the virus outbreak, preside over a successful Games and call a general election. That was upended after a surge in Covid-19 infections led to a fourth state of emergency in Tokyo and forced Olympic organizers to ban spectators from almost all venues.

To be sure, Japan has had some cheering news from the Games, taking a total of five gold medals – including a historic two in judo by Uta Abe and her brother Hifumi on Sunday, as well as one silver medal.

Japan has not experienced an explosive Covid-19 outbreak seen elsewhere but infections in host city Tokyo have been on the rise in recent weeks, with the capital recording 1,763 Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the third day since the Games opened.

Many Japanese fear the influx of athletes and officials for the global sporting event will add to the surge in infections, and 31% in the Nikkei survey said the Games, postponed last year because of the pandemic, should be canceled or postponed again.

Suga took over as premier after predecessor Shinzo Abe quit, citing ill health, ending a tenure that lasted nearly eight years and made him Japan's longest serving prime minister.

Suga's own term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president expires in September and an election for parliament's powerful lower house must be held by November.

Suga came in fifth in the Nikkei's survey of preferred next prime ministers. Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, topped the list but his rating slipped four points to 19%, virtually tied with former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba. Next in line were Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi and Abe at 12% and 6% respectively.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

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