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The Hatoyama administration has been weakened after the prime minister decided to basically keep intact the 2006 Japan-U.S. pact on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa. Mr. Yukio Hatoyama’s dismissal of consumer affairs minister Mizuho Fukushima, who opposed the Futenma decision, led to her Social Democratic Party’s bolting from the tripartite coalition government.

The latest Kyodo News poll shows that the Hatoyama administration’s approval rating has slid to 19.1 percent from the 72 percent registered immediately after its inauguration in September. Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa said Monday that the departure of the SDP has made management of Diet affairs difficult and that the DPJ’s Upper House election prospects do not look good.

Mr. Yoshimitsu Takashima, the DPJ’s senior vice secretary general, said Upper House Democrats who must run in the coming Upper House election are “overwhelmingly” filled with grief and are calling for Mr. Hatoyama’s resignation. Since he is close to Mr. Ozawa, his remarks may trigger a louder call from within the party for Mr. Hatoyama’s resignation.

The Kyodo Poll finds that 51 percent of the polled want Mr. Hatoyama to resign. But 44 percent still think that there is no need for him to step down. The Futenma issue has shown his artlessness and lack of careful preparation in handling a sensitive issue. But his resignation will not lead to a resolution of the difficult situation surrounding the Futenma issue. He must open a new path for his administration and the DPJ on his own.

SDP leader Fukushima told the party caucus that because the SDP’s policy on the peace and the military base issues is its cornerstone, she could not accept Mr. Hatoyama’s Futenma decision. In this sense, the party’s departure from the coalition is logical. The party will likely support a no-confidence motion against the Hatoyama Cabinet. But it has the responsibility to support bills that it has pushed as a member of the coalition. It also must seek election cooperation with the DPJ to survive. A difficult path that requires finesse awaits the SPD.

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