Japan PM support falls below 20 percent: Report

A rating below 20% had nudged some previous PMs out of power in the past.

Tokyo: Support for Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan`s government has fallen below 20 percent, the lowest since he took office in June, a Kyodo survey showed, raising doubts about how long he leader can hold onto his post.

Voter support for the Democratic Party-led government was 19.9 percent, down 12.3 points from the previous survey in mid-January, Kyodo news agency said on Saturday, adding to woes for a prime minister struggling to push forward key fiscal and tax reforms through a divided Parliament.

Support ratings for Kan have been sliding due to voter dissatisfaction with his handling of the fragile economy, perceived missteps in diplomatic rows with China and Russia and feuding inside the DPJ.

A rating below 20 percent had nudged some previous premiers out of power in the past. Kan is unlikely to immediately step down or call a snap election, as he would hardly want to risk an election when ratings are so low.

But his falling popularity will complicate government efforts to enact a workable budget and push ahead with fiscal reforms to curb Japan`s bulging public debt which, at twice the size of Japan`s USD 5 trillion economy, is the worst among major developed nations.

Falling support ratings will also erode his already fragile grip of power within his own party.

Kan has made tax and social security reform, including a future rise in the 5 percent sales tax, a priority given the rising costs of Japan`s fast-aging society and a huge public debt.

He is also trying to get budget related bills through Parliament, either by wooing enough opposition votes in the upper house for a simple majority or getting help from a tiny former coalition partner in the lower house to build the two-thirds majority needed to override the upper chamber.

But with opposition parties hanging tough for now, some pundits have said he may have to either resign or call a snap lower house election as part of a deal to enact bills needed to implement the record budget for the year from April 01.

Kan probably hopes to on for now and bet that public opinion will turn against an obstructive opposition, forcing them to compromise. The Kyodo poll, conducted nationwide on Friday and Saturday by phone, showed that nearly 80 percent wanted the opposition parties to cooperate with the Democrats on social security and tax reform.

Rating agency Standard and Poor`s cut Japan`s long-term debt rating last month for the first time since 2002, while the International Monetary Fund too had harsh words for Japan, saying it needed to act urgently to cut its deficit.

Bureau Report

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