Majority want Japan PM Abe to stay on until Tokyo 2020 Olympics: poll

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves after addressing the JICA High Level Panel as part of the TICAD summit in Kenya's capital Nairobi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe edged above 60 percent for the first time in almost two years, and nearly the same percentage want him to stay in the top job until Tokyo hosts the Summer Games in 2020, a media survey showed on Monday.

Voters, however, were split over the premier’s “Abenomics” growth recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and promised reforms, with 47 percent giving a thumbs down to the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate stance, the poll showed.

Support for Abe’s cabinet hit 62 percent in the Aug 26 to 28 survey by the Nikkei business daily, up four points from earlier this month. The paper suggested the rise could be due to Olympics fever, after a closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro where Abe appeared dressed as popular video game character Mario.

“I think the bump up was due to the feel-good factor of Japan doing well in the Olympics and ‘Super Mario’ is irrelevant,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus.

Japan won 41 medals, including 12 gold.

Speculation has simmered that Abe, already Japan’s longest serving premier in a decade, wants to stay in his post long enough to host the 2020 Olympics.

Doing so would require a change in his Liberal Democratic Party’s rules that limit the party presidency to two three-year terms. Abe’s second term will end in September 2018.

Some LDP heavyweights have voiced support for the rule change, but potential rivals are less enthused.

A previous Nikkei survey showed 45 percent of voters were opposed to extending the LDP leader term limit against 41 percent in favor.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)