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A majority of people polled want Prime Minister Naoto Kan to stay on as leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, far surpassing those who support party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, according to a survey released Saturday.

The survey conducted Friday and Saturday showed 69.9 percent of those polled back Kan in the Sept. 14 DPJ presidential election, compared with 15.6 percent for Ozawa.

The survey was carried out by telephone on 1,450 randomly selected voters nationwide, of whom 1,029 gave valid answers.

Among respondents who support the DPJ, 82.0 percent said they want Kan to remain as leader — a finding that may well affect voting by eligible DPJ legislators, regional assembly members and rank-and-file supporters of the party.

Public support for Kan’s Cabinet came to 48.1 percent, up 9.4 percentage points from the preceding survey early this month, while the disapproval rate was 36.2 percent, down 8.6 points. This marked the first improvement since the July 11 Upper House election.

The survey found that topping the list of reasons for backing Kan’s Cabinet, with 48.4 percent of those polled, was the lack of suitable alternatives as prime minister. Low expectations of the Cabinet’s economic policies were the main reason for disapproval.

Kan, who became DPJ president and prime minister only three months ago, is to hold a news conference Tuesday to formally announce his candidacy, party members close to him said. Official campaigning for the party election will kick off Wednesday.

Ozawa, who held the party’s No. 2 post of secretary general until June, announced his candidacy Thursday. Although Ozawa heads the DPJ’s largest intraparty group, Kan expressed confidence Friday he was gaining the upper hand.

Asked about a possible change of prime minister depending on the outcome of the DPJ leadership race, 56.1 percent of those surveyed said they think a general election should be held, while 39.1 percent opposed such a move.

If a new prime minister emerges as a result of the DPJ election, he or she would be the third in a year.

As for handling the divided Diet, in which the DPJ holds a majority in the Lower House but not in the upper chamber, 43.8 percent called for a general election to be held, ahead of 32.7 percent who favor the DPJ pursuing policy-by-policy “partial coalition” allies among other parties. In addition, 10.9 percent want the DPJ to form a new coalition to regain its majority in the House of Councilors.

Asked to name the next DPJ leader’s most urgent tasks, 51.9 percent cited jump-starting the economy and securing employment, followed by 34.3 percent who sought administrative and fiscal reforms to rein in wasteful spending.

Support for major political parties stood at 32.6 percent for the DPJ, 24.7 percent for the Liberal Democratic Party, 12.5 percent for Your Party and 2.6 percent for New Komeito.

They are followed by 2.4 percent for the Japanese Communist Party, 0.9 percent for the Social Democratic Party, 0.5 percent each for Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) and Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party), 0.4 percent each for Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the DPJ’s tiny coalition partner, and New Party Nippon. Lastly, 19.5 percent said they do not support any particular party.

Kan continues blitz

KITAKYUSHU (Kyodo) Prime Minister Naoto Kan continued his campaign to be re-elected Democratic Party of Japan president in the Sept. 14 poll by visiting Saturday a high-tech factory.

His visit to Toshiba Corp.’s light-emitting diode factory in Kitakyushu came hot on the heels of his consultations Friday with small businesses in Tokyo over the recent yen spike. On Sunday, Kan was scheduled to visit elderly homes in Hyogo Prefecture as part of efforts to formulate better welfare policy.

The series of visits to reach out to the public are part of Kan’s efforts to portray himself as the best choice for national leader, as the ruling DPJ president will presumably also become prime minister.

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