Fri, Apr 09, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Democratic Party of Japan boss delays tense US trip


The powerful kingpin of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will postpone a trip to the US to avoid fanning criticism before an upper house poll expected in July, Japanese media reported yesterday.

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is sliding as voter doubts grow on his ability to resolve a feud with Washington over the relocation of a US airbase by a self-imposed deadline of the end of next month, clouding his party’s chances of a decisive win in the key vote.

Hatoyama is due to meet US President Barack Obama before that at a G8 summit.

If the Democrats fall far short of a majority in the upper chamber, which can delay bills, policymaking could get more confusing as they may have to seek new partners while dealing with a frail economic recovery and a huge public debt.

DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa had planned to visit the US just weeks ahead of Hatoyama’s deadline, but pushed back his trip to avoid bolstering the impression that he is the real power behind the government, media said.

Chances are fading for a new deal to be reached by the deadline.

US officials say the current plan to relocate the US Marine airbase within the southern island of Okinawa is the best, but the DPJ’s tiny coalition allies oppose this.

Close to a majority of voters, as well as opposition and coalition lawmakers, have said Hatoyama should step down if he cannot resolve the row by the end of next month.

Voter support for the Democrats fell to 24 percent while for the LDP it dropped to 16 percent in a recent Yomiuri newspaper survey. Nearly half said they do not support any party.

To take advantage of voters weary of both parties, small parties are springing up, including a group of current and former governors and mayors as well as a group of aging defectors from the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Experts say that the impact of these new parties on the Democrats has been minimal or unclear so far.

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