Nearly half of Japan voters want PM to resign: poll

TOKYO Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:51am EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Almost half of Japanese voters want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to resign, a survey showed on Tuesday, as calls to do so came not just from the opposition but from within his own party in the wake of its election bashing.

Abe's approval rate also slid below 30 percent level, seen as critical for a cabinet to stay in power, according to the poll conducted by Kyodo news agency on Monday and Tuesday.

The hawkish Abe has vowed to stay on despite the loss of his coalition's majority in the upper house in Sunday's vote -- his first big electoral test since taking office last September.

The Kyodo survey showed that 49.5 percent of respondents said Abe should step down, while 43.7 percent said they wanted him to stay. Support for his cabinet slipped to 29 percent, down 6.8 point from a survey in early June.

Abe's bloc was not automatically ousted from government by the upper house defeat since it has a huge majority in the more powerful lower chamber, and a lack of suitable successors in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) may help him survive.

"I will humbly accept the harsh criticism ... and do my utmost to show results," Abe told reporters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Abe's right-hand man, acknowledged that a couple of party executives at a meeting on Tuesday had questioned Abe's intention to stay on.

The Kyodo poll showed LDP support falling short of the opposition Democratic Party for the first time since 2004.

Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa urged Abe to step down.

"They are trying to push ahead with something as outrageous as maintaining the cabinet even after losing their majority," Ozawa told a meeting of party executives, appearing in public for the first time since the election.

"The public will not understand such selfishness," he said.

Ozawa, 65, has heart problems and his absence from the public eye since the election has again raised fears for his health.

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