Japan PM party suffers: exit polls

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Democratic Party suffered a major blow in Sunday's upper house election, exit polls showed.

Japan PM party suffers: exit polls

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Democratic Party suffered a major blow in Sunday's upper house election, exit polls showed, threatening efforts to curb massive public debt and putting his own job at risk.

The vote is regarded as the first referendum on Prime Minister Naoto Kan, a 63-year-old former leftist activist, who took power on June 8 after former premier Yukio Hatoyama resigned over breaking promise on unpopular US military base.

This is also the first national test at the ballot box since the party swept to power under Hatoyama last August, transforming politics in Asia's biggest economy after a half-century of almost unbroken conservative rule.

Kan is seeking popular support to draw a line under a period of revolving-door politics that has seen five new premiers in four years.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its tiny partner, the People's New Party, were set to lose their combined majority in the upper house, the polls showed.

The Democrats were expected to win just 47 seats, far short of Kan's goal of winning all 54 seats that the party had up for grabs.

The Democrats, who have relied on the People's New Party to control the upper house, will almost certainly stay in power by virtue of their majority in parliament's lower house.

But they will need to seek new partners to control the upper chamber, complicating policymaking as Japan struggles to engineer growth and rein in public debt nearly twice the size of GDP.

"Tax issue"


The Democrats swept to power last year promising to cut waste and focus spending on consumers to boost growth. Public backing nosedived due to indecisive leadership and while government ratings rose when Kan took over last month, they slipped after he floated a rise in the 5 percent sales tax to help rein in debt.

The DPJ will almost certainly run the government whatever the outcome of Sunday's vote because it controls the powerful lower house.

"From the bottom of my heart I would like to ask you to let the DPJ exercise policies that restore Japan's troubled economy and public finances as well as social welfare all together," Kan told voters on the eve of the election.

Faced with sagging support, Kan has denied any plan for an immediate rise in the current five-percent consumption tax, but defended his warning about the nation's swelling public debt, which is nearly 200 per cent of GDP.

A serious defeat would even leave Kan open to internal party leadership challenges, as the party is scheduled to hold its own presidential election in September.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Temmuz 2010, 19:09

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