Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Tuesday played down favorable election predictions for his Liberal Democratic Party in the latest newspaper opinion polls.

The outcome of Sunday’s Lower House election is still unpredictable, Mori said during an interview with reporters.

Tuesday morning editions of many Japanese newspapers carried their respective voter surveys, which, in general, indicated that the ruling coalition — the LDP, New Komeito and New Conservative Party — are likely to secure a comfortable majority in the lower chamber.

The surveys showed that the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, is likely to gain some seats, but not to the extent that it will threaten the ruling bloc.

The survey results came despite a series of gaffes by the prime minister, such as his description of Japan as a “divine nation centering on the Emperor.” Earlier opinion polls had pointed to declining support for Mori’s Cabinet.

However, when asked for his opinion on the latest results, Mori said the surveys also showed that about 40 percent of voters have yet to decide which candidate and party to vote for.

The outcome of the election hinges on the decisions of those swing voters, he acknowledged.

“It reminds me of the Upper House election in 1998,” he said. “We should never make the same mistake.”

In the 1998 election, the LDP suffered a humiliating setback, even though polls conducted a week before the election promised a victory for the ruling party.

Unlike the LDP’s Hiromu Nonaka, who said he will resign if the party fails to secure 229 seats in the chamber, Mori refused to indicate a clear figure at which he would take the blame and step down.

On other issues, Mori said he is willing to tap 500 billion yen in reserve funds after the election to prop up the economy.

“I have to make a decision after the election to give orders to use up the reserve,” he said.

Mori stressed the need to use reserve funds because private consumption is still low and people in some parts of the country still do not see recovery.

Although the gross domestic product in fiscal 1999 showed positive growth, the government should not drop its fiscal reconsolidation policies until the economy is on a solid recovery track, he said.

“When someone is not completely in good health, that person should not go swimming or run a 100-meter race,” Mori said.

As for the supplementary budget, Mori said he will wait until the GDP for the April-June quarter is announced in September before making a decision.

During a television interview Sunday, Mori said he has ordered the government to prepare for a possible supplementary budget.

“I told (staff) to at least prepare and examine” the supplementary budget, he said. Mori said dwindling public works projects between January and March are dealing a blow to the economy, indicating the possibility of a revised budget.

Mori also took the opportunity to criticize DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama for his remark that he might cast a vote for Koichi Kato, a former LDP secretary general, as prime minister in the special Diet session that must convene after the poll, if Kato defects from the party and joins hands with the DPJ.