Despite dismal poll showings for his Liberal Democratic Party, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday he will do his utmost to ensure that the LDP retains the 51 seats it has up for grabs in Sunday’s House of Councilors election.

“I will do my best” so the party will not fall short of the target number of seats in the triennial election, in which half of the Upper House seats are contested, Koizumi told reporters in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, while stumping for an LDP candidate.

Media polls released over the weekend unanimously predicted that the LDP, of which Koizumi is president, faces an uphill battle to achieve the 51-seat target, although the polls also show a large portion of the electorate still undecided on whom and which party to vote for.

The media polls also forecast that the Democratic Party of Japan will outperform the LDP in the July 11 election.

“Since we are fighting a close race (in many constituencies), I believe we have to do our best until the final moment so that we can get good results,” Koizumi said.

On the stump in Hirosaki earlier in the day, the prime minister did not hide his irritation over media criticism of his decision to have the Self-Defense Forces contingent now in Iraq join the multinational force being set up there, in particular the fact that he effectively promised the SDF’s participation to U.S. President George W. Bush before explaining this to the Japanese public or the Diet.

“The mass media is full is misunderstanding and prejudice” in their reporting of the Iraq-SDF issue, Koizumi said in his campaign speech.

“(The media) criticized me for not consulting (the Diet). I understand their argument if the (SDF) mission is to change, but the mission is not changing,” he said.

In Tokyo, senior LDP executives, including Secretary General Shinzo Abe, agreed that the party, in trying to achieve the 51-seat target, will concentrate its resources on about 10 districts where it is fighting a close race with DPJ candidates.

Koizumi and Abe will mainly stump for LDP candidates in these districts for the remaining days before the Sunday election, the party executives agreed.

Koizumi earlier indicated he has no plans to step down even if the LDP fails to clear the 51-seat target. But a dismal performance Sunday could prompt some LDP lawmakers to seek his ouster.

Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, reiterated Sunday evening that Koizumi should step down if the party fails to win 51 seats.

“This is an election that determines the fate of the LDP. I have said Prime Minister Koizumi should step down if the party cannot win 51 seats,” Aoki, an LDP heavyweight who threw his support behind Koizumi when he was re-elected as party chief last September, told a gathering in the city of Kochi.

“True, he does not have to resign, because the LDP holds a single-party majority in the House of Representatives,” Aoki said. The Lower House takes precedence over the Upper House in the election of a prime minister.

“But a prime minister who has lost an Upper House election will become a total lame duck,” Aoki said. Koizumi’s term as LDP president runs through September 2006.

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