TOKYO Nearly half of Japan's voters support no political party, according to a poll released on Monday, a sign of mounting frustration with both ruling and opposition parties ahead of an election expected in July.
Hoping to attract some of these dissatisfied voters, former finance minister Kaoru Yosano and other opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rebels are aiming to start a new party this week. It is unclear how much support they can attract.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party needs to win an outright majority in the mid-year upper house poll to avoid a policy stalemate, but voter concerns about his leadership skills, messy decision-making and funding scandals are dimming that prospect.
The survey by the Yomiuri newspaper showed voter support for the ruling Democrats fell to 24 percent and that for the main opposition LDP dropped to 16 percent.
Alarmed LDP executives decided on Monday to form a British-style "shadow cabinet" and to bring in an outspoken lawmaker critical of party's senior members as an executive, Kyodo news agency said, in an effort to prevent further unraveling of the party.
"I would like to show that there are debaters among LDP's next generation and for them to fully explain policies," Sadakazu Tanigaki, the head of the LDP, told a news conference.
The tiny pro-reform opposition Your Party was gaining support and came third in the Yomiuri poll, but still lagged with support of just 4 percent.
When asked which party they plan to cast their ballots for in the upper house election, 44 percent said they had not decided.
With many disappointed by the premier's leadership skills, support for Hatoyama's government dropped to 33 percent, down 8 points from last month's survey.
The survey showed 49 percent said Hatoyama should quit if he cannot resolve a row with Washington over a military base by a self-imposed deadline of end of May, exceeding 43 percent who said there was no such need.
That contrasted with recent polls showing fewer voters think Hatoyama should resign over a funding scandal.
Hatoyama said last week he has a plan to resolve the feud with security ally Washington over the relocation of a U.S. marine base on Okinawa island. But he said the time was not ripe to reveal it and dismissed questions about whether failure might force him to resign.
(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Yoko Kubota; Editing by Ron Popeski)