Only one in four Japanese voters plan to vote for the ruling party in a key election expected in July, a survey showed on Monday, as funding scandals and doubts about the prime minister’s leadership erode his support.
Prime minister Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Party needs to win the election for parliament’s upper house to avoid parliamentary deadlock and policy paralysis as Japan struggles to keep a fragile recovery on track and rein in its massive public debt.
Nearly 80 percent of voters in the Yomiuri newspaper poll said Ichiro Ozawa, the Democrats’ powerful secretary-general whose campaign skills have been seen as vital, should resign over a funding scandal in which three of his aides have been charged.
The opposition Liberal Democratic Party, however, has failed to benefit much from the ruling party’s woes. Only 22 percent of voters said they would cast their ballots for the party, ousted last year after more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule.
Twenty-five percent said they would vote for the Democrats, who swept to power last August vowing to put more money in consumers’ hands to boost growth, have politicians decide policies instead of bureaucrats, and cut waste.
Hatoyama is also in a bind over a row with close ally Washington over where to relocate the US Marines’ Futenma airbase on the southern island of Okinawa. He has promised to resolve the feud by May and hinted he might resign if he cannot.
During last year’s election, Hatoyama raised hopes in Okinawa that the Marines’ Futenma airbase could be moved off of the island, host to the bulk of 47,000 US military personnel in Japan. But Washington wants to stick to a 2006 deal to shift the facility to a less crowded spot on northern Okinawa.