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More than half of respondents to a recent poll said Democratic Party of Japan leader Seiji Maehara does not need to step down over the turmoil surrounding an e-mail claimed to be evidence of a shady money transfer involving a senior ruling party official.

According to the nationwide telephone poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, 27.6 percent said Maehara should step down over the controversy while 58.7 percent said the opposition leader is accountable for the fuss but there is no need for him to quit.

The number of those who think Maehara has no responsibility came to 7.8 percent.

The support rate for the DPJ plunged to 11.3 percent, down 5.7 points from a survey in January and the lowest since October 2003, when the party merged with the Liberal Party.

The latest survey covered 1,027 voters selected at random.

In a Diet session earlier this month, Hisayasu Nagata, a DPJ member of the House of Representatives, claimed he had obtained an e-mail showing that Takafumi Horie, the arrested founder of Livedoor Co. at the center of an alleged case of accounting fraud, instructed that 30 million yen be transferred to a son of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe. But he has failed to prove the message was authentic.

According to the survey, 37.6 percent said Nagata should resign as a Diet member while 22.9 percent replied he does not need to resign and 37.9 percent said they were undecided at this point in time.

The approval rating for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet fell 1.1 points to 51.8 percent while the disapproval rating rose 2.9 points to 37.2 percent.

Among people who said they support Koizumi, the most common reason, at 38.2 percent, is that there is no other appropriate person to hold the job, up 8.0 points.

In contrast, the number of those who support Koizumi’s Cabinet because of expected administrative reform or his leadership fell.

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