Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Koizumi maintaining wide lead over rival: poll

AP , TOKYO

A third of voters plan to support Japan's ruling party in upcoming parliamentary elections, a newspaper poll said yesterday, showing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi maintaining a wide lead over his main rival.

The poll by the national Asahi newspaper, however, showed the largest bloc of voters -- about 40 percent -- remained undecided, suggesting that there was still room for major shifts in support before the Sept. 11 ballot for the 480-seat lower house.

The Asahi poll, which was conducted on Monday and Tuesday, showed 34 percent of respondents said that they would vote for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for the 300 seats in which voters cast ballots for individual candidates.

This is almost three times the 13 percent support for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, and five percentage points more than in an Asahi poll that was taken on last Thursday and Friday.

For the 180 proportional representation seats, in which voters cast ballots for parties rather than candidates, 29 percent of respondents said that they plan to vote for the LDP, while only 14 percent said that they would choose the Democrats, the poll said.

The LDP has consistently posted a healthy lead over the DPJ in polls taken since the country's upper house rejected Koizumi's plan to overhaul Japan's massive postal delivery and savings system.

Koizumi dissolved the lower house and called elections on Aug. 8.

The Asahi poll also showed the LDP ahead in large cities across the country, as opposed to rural areas, reversing trends in the last two elections in which the Democrats made significant gains among urban voters.

In the poll, 33 percent of city-dwellers said that they would vote for the LDP in proportional representation seats, while only a third of that number of respondents said that they would choose the Democrats.

In smaller towns and rural areas -- traditionally a LDP stronghold -- support for the ruling party stood at 22 percent, with the Democrats close behind at 19 percent.

The survey, which was conducted by telephone, received valid responses from 1,084 people. No margin of error was provided.

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