Tue, Jul 21, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japan’s LDP faces punishing election

AFP , TOKYO AND BEIJING

Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatayama speaks with residents of Okinawa during a campaign tour in Itoman city, Japan, on Sunday. 

PHOTO: EPA

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is headed for a rout at an Aug. 30 general election that is expected to puncture its decades-long domination of politics, opinion polls showed yesterday.

The poll results came a day before Prime Minister Taro Aso is due to dissolve the lower house of parliament for the snap election.

In a weekend telephone poll by the Mainichi Shimbun daily, 56 percent of respondents said they wanted the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to win. In contrast, 23 percent favored the LDP.

The result was based on a sample of 1,045 people.

“It is evident that the Democratic Party has been gaining momentum after its big win in the Tokyo municipal assembly election,” Mainichi said, referring to a July 12 municipal poll seen as a bellwether for the party.

In another poll by the influential daily Asahi Shimbun, 49 percent of respondents said they wanted a new government led by the Democratic Party, while 22 percent wanted the LDP-led coalition to retain power.

“A tendency toward a change of power is gaining strength,” Asahi said.

Its telephone poll had 1,064 respondents.

The LDP has ruled continuously since its foundation in 1955, barring one 10-month stretch. But it has lost to the Democratic Party in a 2007 upper house election.

Aso, a 68-year-old former diamond trader and one-time Olympic marksman, took office in September with a mission to revive the LDP ahead of a general election he was obliged to call by this September.

He is Japan’s third prime minister since the popular Junichiro Koizumi stepped down in 2006.

But his government’s approval rating has steadily dropped. The gaffe-prone Aso has been criticized by the opposition for policy flip-flops and wasteful economic stimulus measures aimed at wooing voters.

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