• Kyodo News


A Kyodo News weekend poll released Monday found 38.5 percent of voters voicing support for the Democratic Party of Japan, compared with a record-low 19.8 percent backing Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party.

The support rate for the Cabinet was just 17.5 percent, down 8.7 percentage points from last month, according to the weekend survey of 1,039 randomly called voters.

The result is expected to deal a severe blow to the Cabinet and possibly prompt some LDP members to campaign for Aso’s ouster as LDP president before the next Lower House election, which must be held by October.

Asked what party they would vote for in the next House of Representatives election’s proportional representation blocks, 47.8 percent of the pollees named the DPJ and 18.7 percent said the LDP.

The disapproval rate for the Cabinet was 70.6 percent, up 10.4 points from the poll in May.

Aso effectively dismissed Kunio Hatoyama as internal affairs and communications minister on Friday over a high-profile row concerning the reappointment of Yoshifumi Nishikawa as president of Japan Post Holdings Co. The survey found that only 17.5 percent of the respondents approved of Hatoyama’s exit, while 74.8 percent said they disapprove.

The Cabinet’s support rate, which had been dwindling since its launch last September, had been recovering in recent months due to a fundraising scandal involving former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa.

As for Nishikawa, 75.5 percent of respondents said he should step down, while 17.2 percent said he should stay on as the head of the postal body.

Hatoyama, one of Aso’s closest allies, opposed Nishikawa’s reappointment. He says Japan Post attempted to sell the Kampo no Yado nationwide resort inn properties at excessively low prices.

In the portion of the poll on who is more suitable as prime minister, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama garnered support from 50.4 percent, while Aso was backed by 21.5 percent. The opposition leader is the elder brother of the sacked minister.

A total of 35.9 percent of those surveyed said a DPJ-led coalition would be desirable, while 14.9 percent said they would prefer an LDP-led governing bloc and 14.7 percent said they want to see a coalition between the LDP and DPJ.

Twenty-eight percent said they prefer a new ruling party framework as a result of major political realignment.

Among those who support the Aso Cabinet, 44.3 percent said there is no other choice. Asked why they disapprove of the Cabinet, 23.0 percent cited Aso’s lack of leadership.

The DPJ-backed candidate meanwhile was elected mayor of the city of Chiba in a landslide Sunday, giving the largest opposition force further momentum before the national election.

Toshihito Kumagai defeated a candidate also backed by the opposition and a candidate supported by the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc in the city of some 950,000 people.

The DPJ’s victory in Chiba followed mayoral election wins in Nagoya and the city of Saitama.

Kumagai, 31, a former city assembly member who also received backing from the Social Democratic Party, will be the youngest mayor in Japan.

The two other candidates were Kojiro Hayashi, 63, backed by the ruling bloc, and Fusae Yuki, 65, of the Japanese Communist Party.

Voter turnout was 43.50 percent, up 6.30 percentage points from the previous mayoral election.

“I think my will to change the city matched that of many people, and that enabled me to win,” Kumagai told supporters at his campaign office after declaring victory. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow as a citizen as well, as I know a new political era will begin.”

Kumagai got 170,629 votes, while 117,560 went to Hayashi and 30,933 to Yuki.

The focus now is on whether the ruling bloc can recover from the consecutive losses in mayoral elections in the upcoming Shizuoka gubernatorial race and Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly poll in July.

“We were certain he would win,” Kaname Tajima, a DPJ member of the House of Representatives, said at Kumagai’s campaign office. “I think it really showed people that the city is actually going to change, and I’m sure they will get the message that this is the dawn of a change of administration.”

Supporters at the office cheered the news that Kumagai would achieve a solid victory. He won nearly 30 percent of the votes of LDP supporters.

The campaign that began with Hayashi declaring his candidacy in April took a sudden turn when the incumbent, 69-year-old Keiichi Tsuruoka, was arrested later that month on suspicion of accepting bribes from a construction firm, just months before the end of his second term.

The arrest of Tsuruoka, who resigned May 1, hurt Hayashi, who had served as his deputy mayor and was seen as his successor. It prompted the DPJ, which initially was not expected to field a candidate, to suddenly look for a contender to challenge Hayashi.

The DPJ characterized Kumagai as “young, with no experience in politics and no money,” and therefore different from Hayashi.

Yuki, meanwhile, criticized money politics and said the JCP is the only party that has not accepted political donations.

The main issues in the campaign were how to restore public trust in the city government after Tsuruoka’s arrest and how to deal with municipal more than ¥1 billion in city debts.

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