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Support for Japan`s PM above 70%: Report

Last Updated: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 10:32

Tokyo: Support for Japan`s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stayed above 70 percent more than two weeks after he took power, a newspaper survey showed on Monday, but tough challenges loom ahead for the novice government.
The Yomiuri newspaper survey put support for Hatoyama`s cabinet at 71 percent, but in a sign of possible trouble ahead, about the same percentage said they were dissatisfied with his explanation of a funding scandal that emerged months ago.

Hatoyama took office on September 16 after his Democratic Party trounced its long-dominant conservative rival, bringing to power an administration that aims to radically change how the country is run, wean the economy from exports and create more equal ties with close ally Washington.

He has spent much of his time in office on voter-pleasing diplomatic travel, but keeping support high will only get harder as the government faces headaches, including finding funds to pay for programs to put more money in consumers` hands.

"When an opposition party becomes a ruling party, it usually hits a wall when it tries to actually implement proposed policies," political analyst Atsuo Ito said.

"But so far, it has been successful in appealing to the public with its intention to push for drastic reform."

Hatoyama must also keep happy two tiny partners whose support is needed in parliament`s less powerful upper house without exposing huge gaps over policies.

Budget headaches, funds scandal

About half the 1,116 voters surveyed said they were unhappy with the DPJ`s coalition links with the two parties. That was a possible reflection of turmoil sparked by the head of one ruling bloc partner with his proposal for a loan moratorium for small firms.

The support for Hatoyama`s cabinet was only slightly down from the 75 percent in an initial poll after he took office.

The weekend survey coincided with Japanese media reports that prosecutors had begun questioning people whose names were incorrectly listed as political donors to Hatoyama.

Hatoyama acknowledged in June that his aide had misreported some donations, but said the money came from his personal funds.

His cabinet is seeking projects to cut from an already enacted JPY 14 trillion (USD 156 billion) extra budget to help fund its own programs, but so far appears short of the mark.

That means the government may have to borrow more and further inflate a public debt already about 170 percent of GDP. It must then produce a budget for next fiscal year that starts in April.

"The short-term challenge is compiling a budget for the next fiscal year, including to what extent they can include steps promised in their campaign platform and whether they will have to issue deficit-financing bonds if they cannot find the resources to finance them," analyst Ito said.

Hatoyama`s proposed target of a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 -- opposed by many businesses for fear it would hurt global competitiveness -- got the backing of 75 percent of those surveyed.

But nearly 70 percent opposed a proposed elimination of expressway tolls, a step environmentalists say runs counter to efforts to fight global warming.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, October 5, 2009 - 10:32
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