Almost half of Japanese voters now support the main opposition Democratic Party, according to a poll yesterday that appears to confirm disenchantment with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's government.
Some 46 percent of those questioned for the survey in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said that they wanted the Democratic Party to win the next general elections.
It indicates lingering public anger at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) amid widening scandals over mismanagement of state pensions and corruption at the defense ministry, the paper said.
The LDP won support from only 33 percent of those polled.
Public support for the Democratic Party has grown since July when it won a landslide victory in upper house elections, a victory that eventually led to the resignation of then-prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Recent polls suggest that support for Fukuda has also fallen sharply since he succeeded Abe in September, falling to around 30 percent.
The lower house of parliament has a mandate until September next year, but most analysts speculate it will be dissolved later this year.
The Mainichi survey used data from 1,528 adults and was taken last month.
Meanwhile, Japan's main opposition party is likely to wait for budget passage in March to push for a snap election rather than aim for an earlier poll by censuring the prime minister this month, a party leader said yesterday.
Fukuda faces a tough time getting key legislation through parliament, where the Democratic Party and its smaller allies control the upper house and can delay laws. Pundits predict that the deadlock will force a lower house election this year.
In the first major clash of this year, the ruling bloc is set to use its two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house to force through a bill to resume Japan's naval mission in support of US-led operations in Afghanistan after its expected rejection by the upper chamber this week.
"Our resolve is firm," LDP Secretary-General Bunmei Ibuki told NHK television when asked if the ruling camp would take the rare step of overriding an upper house rejection.
Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa insists that Japan's refuelling of US and other ships in the Indian Ocean, halted last year when enabling legislation expired, violates the country's pacifist Constitution.
But close security ally Washington says the activities are vital to the war against terrorism, and Fukuda has vowed to enact a new law before parliament's current session ends on Jan. 15.
The Democrats had threatened to counter with the first-ever parliamentary censure to be passed against a prime minister in hopes of forcing an election. But with many voters more concerned about pocketbook issues such as pensions, such a step could fizzle.