Only one-fourth of Japan voters back PM Aso - poll

Other News Materials 7 December 2008 15:38 (UTC +04:00)

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso slid more than 15 points to around 25 percent in a poll released on Sunday that also showed voters unhappy with his decision to delay measures to prop up the sagging economy, Reuters reported.

Aso is finding it increasingly difficult to keep his party in line as his support rate falls and the economy slides deeper into recession, intensifying criticism from lawmakers who fear defeat in a general election that must be held by September 2009.

Japan's Prime Minister is seen leaving after an one-on-one debate with opposition Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa at the parliament in Tokyo in this November 28, 2008 file photo.

Only 25.5 percent of respondents to a weekend poll by Kyodo news agency backed Aso, who took office in September hoping to lead the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner to victory in an election that must be held by September 2009.

That was in line with other polls showing policy flip-flops and verbal gaffes have eroded Aso's ratings.

More than half of voters in the Kyodo survey -- 55.7 percent -- disagreed with Aso's decision to postpone until January the submission of an extra budget to fund a promised stimulus package with 5 trillion yen ($54 billion) in fresh spending, Kyodo said.

In a sign of disarray in the party that has ruled Japan for most of the past half century, former financial services minister Yoshimi Watanabe said that he might leave the LDP if pressure from those angry at his criticism of Aso mounted.

"If there is big chorus telling me to leave, then I may do so," Watanabe told Fuji TV, repeating his call for a snap election and the formation of a "crisis management cabinet" to implement urgent economic policies.

Aso's junior coalition partner, New Komeito party leader Akihiro Ota, urged the prime minister to take bold economic measures to help the sagging economy, saying an additional 10 trillion yen would be needed over the next two years.

He also told Asahi TV that his party favoured an early election, perhaps in January or April.

"Our basic idea is that sooner is better," he said.

The LDP tapped Aso as prime minister in September in hopes he could win a mandate to break a political deadlock caused by a divided parliament, where the main opposition Democratic Party and smaller allies control the upper house and can delay bills.

Political analysts, though, say the LDP-led ruling bloc is in danger of losing its grip on power, raising the prospect that the Democratic Party will form a government for the first time.

Backing for Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, who until recently trailed Aso in surveys of voter preference for premier, rose about 10 points to 34.5 percent, while Aso's fell 17.5 points to 33.5 percent, Kyodo's weekend poll of around 1,000 eligible voters showed. No margin of error was given.