Tue, Dec 09, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Taro Aso fights for his political survival amid record low polls

NOT POPULAR The 21 percent approval rating for the Japanese prime minister has prompted newspapers to speculate the ruling party could lose power for the first time since 1955 or even splinter

AFP , TOKYO

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s popularity has plunged to new lows close to 20 percent, polls showed yesterday, sparking speculation that the ruling party could be pushed out of power or even break up.

The outspoken conservative, who has been in the post for little more than two months, is now even less popular than his predecessor was when he quit suddenly in September after a year of bitter fighting with the opposition.

The Aso Cabinet’s approval ratings have tumbled by almost half to 21 percent, down from 41 percent early last month, a weekend poll of 1,091 people for the Yomiuri Shimbun showed.

“They are very severe figures and I recognize them as an evaluation of me,” Aso told officials from the ruling coalition, Jiji Press reported.

“I think they are criticism for not fully meeting expectations for the economy and employment measures,” he said.

Experts said the polls showed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has a tough battle if it is to win general elections due by September.

There is even speculation that the LDP, which has been in power for all but 10 months since 1955, could break up.

The Aso administration “will collapse,” said Junnosuke Masumi, a political expert and professor emeritus at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

The LDP’s dominance of Japanese politics is “crumbling,” pushing the Democratic Party toward power, he said.

“There is a possibility that the Liberal Democratic Party will split although it won’t happen until they are really driven to the wall. They are in such chaos. Nobody knows what ugly situation will come out of this,” Masumi said.

Aso has come under fire in recent weeks for a series of verbal blunders appearing to insult parents and doctors among others. His plans to revive the recession-ridden economy have also failed to impress voters.

Aso is now much less popular than his predecessor Yasuo Fukuda was when he stepped down in September with a rating of about 28 percent.

Japan’s two other major daily papers carried similarly dismal polls for Aso.

The Asahi Shimbun reported the Cabinet’s support has fallen to 22 percent, down from 37 percent a month ago, while the Mainichi Shimbun said it dropped to 21 percent, down from 36 percent in October.

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