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Jul 19, 11:15 PM EDT

Support for Japanese leader Abe drops after security bills

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AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama

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TOKYO (AP) -- Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dropped sharply after his government pushed through highly contentious legislation last week to expand the role of the military.

Major media polls released over the past few days found that support for his Cabinet has fallen to the 35-40 percent range, the lowest since he took office in December 2012.

The disapproval rate edged up to more than 50 percent in two polls, by Kyodo news service and the Mainichi newspaper.

The latest poll, published Monday in the Asahi newspaper, put his support rate at 37 percent and disapproval at 46 percent.

Analysts think that concern about slipping ratings was one reason behind Abe's decision to reverse gears and announce Friday a review of plans to build a costly stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The $2 billion price tag for the National Stadium, which would have made it the most expensive sports stadium ever built, was widely opposed by the public.

Lower house passage of the security bills earlier in the week was met by large and vocal protests outside parliament and a rare opposition boycott of the vote. The public controversy over the legislation is likely to continue as the upper house takes it up over the next two months.

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