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Japan PM in a bind as upper house election looms

Last Updated: Monday, March 8, 2010 - 10:40

Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, his party flagging in polls ahead of a mid-year election, promised on Monday to find a way to regain public backing but said he was not considering a cabinet reshuffle now.

Only one in four voters plan to cast their ballots for his Democratic Party in an upper house election expected in July, a Yomiuri newspaper survey showed on Monday, as funding scandals and doubts about the premier`s leadership erode his support.

The novice Democratic Party, which ousted the long-dominant Liberal Democrats last year, needs to win the election to avoid policy paralysis as Japan struggles to keep a fragile economic recovery on track and rein in its massive public debt.

"The view is spreading among the people that nothing has changed from before," Hatoyama told reporters.

"Fundamentally, it is important to enact the (2010/11) budget and implement one by one the policies that we promised the people in our manifesto, but that is not enough. We must accept this criticism head on and find a remedy," he said.

But he added that he was not considering shaking up his five-month-old cabinet.
Nearly 80 percent of voters in the Yomiuri poll said Ichiro Ozawa -- the Democrats` powerful secretary-general whose campaign skills have been seen as vital but who is plagued by an old-style wheeler-dealer image -- should resign over a funding scandal in which three of his aides have been charged.

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.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, March 8, 2010 - 10:40
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