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UPDATE 1-Japan PM support hits 19.1 pct ahead of key election
May 14, 2010 / 7:27 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Japan PM support hits 19.1 pct ahead of key election

 * U.S. base row, funding scandal erode PM's support
 * Survey bodes ill for ruling party in upper house poll
(Adds details)
 TOKYO, May 14 (Reuters) - Voter support for the government of
Japan's embattled Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has fallen to
19.1 percent, slipping below 20 percent for the first time ahead
of a key mid-year election, a Jiji news poll showed on Friday.
 Public perceptions that Hatoyama has mishandled a row over a
U.S. Marine base in southern Japan, which he has promised to
settle by the end of May, and a funding scandal embroiling ruling
party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa have steadily eroded support from
around 70 percent when the premier took office in September.
 Hatoyama's Democratic Party needs a decisive win in the upper
house vote expected in July to enact laws smoothly, while a loss
for the ruling coalition would spell policy deadlock as Japan
nurtures a fragile economic recovery while trying to rein in
massive public debt.
 Graphic on Japan voter support:
 Graphic on voting intentions:
 For more stories on Japanese politics click        [ID:nPOLJP]
 "It has been falling substantially for a while. I was
expecting it to go down, but I am a bit shocked," Foreign
Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters.
 Support for Hatoyama was down 4.6 percentage points on a
previous survey last month, Jiji news agency poll said.
 Both the funding scandal and the row over the U.S. base on
the southern island of Okinawa will come under renewed focus this
weekend, with islanders set to hold a demonstration, while
prosecutors may quiz Ichiro Ozawa next week in an effort to
revive a criminal case against him.
 Many voters say they feel Hatoyama lacks leadership
qualities, and his government appeared to flipflop this week in a
row over relocating the Futenma U.S. Marine base on the southern
island of Okinawa.
 On Friday Hatoyama reiterated a pledge to resolve the row by
the end of the month, though a day earlier he had admitted that
would be difficult and vowed to keep trying after the deadline
has passed.
 About half the respondents to the Jiji survey said they
thought Hatoyama should resign if he missed the deadline.
 Analysts say he may stay in his job because resignation would
not necessarily help his party at the election, but his
unpopularity may force the Democrats into a change of tack.
"The Democrats may need to change their campaign strategy, to
give up on winning a majority on their own," said Noritada
Matsuda, associate professor at the University of Kitakyushu.
 This would mean cooperating more with their tiny coalition
partners, and perhaps steering clear of sensitive policies such
as raising consumption tax, he said.
 When asked which party they would vote for in the upcoming
election, 18.3 percent opted for the main opposition Liberal
Democratic Party, compared with 17 percent for the the Democrats.
 Jiji's surveys, which are conducted by face-to-face
interview, tend to show lower government support rates than the
telephone surveys conducted by other media.
 (Reporting by Isabel Reynolds and Chisa Fujioka)

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