Japan ruling party support leaps

Support for Japan`s ruling Democratic Party leaped to 36.1 percent in a poll.

Tokyo: Support for Japan`s ruling Democratic Party leaped to 36.1 percent in a poll published by Kyodo news agency on Saturday after the appointment of a new leader in the run-up to an upper house election.

The figure was up 15.6 percentage points on a poll carried out at the end of May before unpopular prime minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped down and was replaced as party head, and thus premier, by Naoto Kan.

Kan, 63, will become Japan`s fifth prime minister in three years, taking over as the country struggles to rein in a huge public debt, engineer growth in an aging society, and manage ties with security ally Washington and a rising China.

Kan`s rise and his cabinet line-up, set to be announced on Tuesday, could spell bolder steps to contain a public debt twice the size of the economy. But he faces opposition from many in his party before the election, expected in July.

He has picked Yoshihiko Noda as finance minister, Kyodo said, a choice that will be welcomed by the bond market because he favours fiscal discipline and has supported the idea of capping new debt issuance for next year.

Satoshi Arai, a former aide to the outgoing Hatoyama, is to become national strategy minister, Kyodo said. Kan will keep Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, but plans to replace eight cabinet members, the agency said.

In the Kyodo telephone poll carried out on Friday and Saturday, 57.6 percent of respondents said they had high expectations of Kan, a fiscal conservative with a reformist image.

That compares with just 19.1 percent of respondents to a similar question posed in the May poll on expectations of Hatoyama, Kyodo said.

Nearly 33 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for the Democrats in the upper house election, compared with 23.4 percent for the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which had been in the lead in the previous poll, Kyodo said.

Bureau Report

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