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Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009
Hatoyama support rate plummets
By JUN HONGO
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Monday the sharp dip in the public support rate for his administration, as shown in opinion polls over the weekend, means he must work harder.
Support for the Hatoyama team, which took power in September with an approval rate above 70 percent, has fallen to around 50 percent.
A Mainichi Shimbun poll found an approval rate of 55 percent for the administration, while a Nihon TV survey showed only 51.8 percent support. A joint survey by the Sankei Shimbun and television station FNN found a 51 percent approval rate.
A similar survey by Jiji Press has the DPJ losing its majority of public support, with only 47 percent of respondents saying they back Hatoyama.
Asked to comment on his declining popularity, Hatoyama told reporters the government must be "grateful" for the pressure from the public and "will give even more effort" to address ongoing issues.
Except for former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose support rate hovered above 80 percent during his first months in office, most administrations have a very short honeymoon.
Hatoyama has lost 22 points in three months after debuting with a 77 percent support rate, according to the Mainichi Shimbun survey. The drop compares with those of Prime Ministers Taro Aso and Yasuo Fukuda, who both lost 24 points in the same span, as well as Shinzo Abe's 21-point drop.
Aso, Fukuda and Abe all lasted about a year before resigning.
Hatoyama, who pledged to drastically cut wasteful government spending while boosting welfare and other benefits for voters, has failed to cut the ministries' budget requests and faces a severe income shortage as tax revenues have fallen amid the serious economic slump.
The DPJ administration heads toward the end of the year and beyond with no obvious ways to regain public support.
A former Hatoyama secretary is expected to be indicted soon without arrest over false reporting of political funds by the prime minister's funds management body. Hatoyama reportedly submitted a written statement to prosecutors Monday denying he played any role in the irregularities. Otherwise he has remained mum on the issue.
The following days will also test the administration's leadership in drawing up the 2010 budget, where Hatoyama must choose between sticking to his political pledge of nixing provisional gas taxes or go back on his word to secure government income.
"Opinions of the public will be taken sincerely. We take this as a message that includes encouragement to the government to work hard," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Monday.
He denied Hatoyama lacks the leadership to direct the administration, saying the prime minister has made critical decisions whenever needed.
Statement of denial
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has submitted a written statement to prosecutors denying he was personally involved in the falsification of his political funding reports, sources said Monday.
It is extremely unusual for a sitting prime minister to tender a statement to investigative authorities.
"I was entrusting the handling of financial reports to a former government-paid secretary who was in charge of accounting and did not know false entries were booked," Hatoyama reportedly wrote in the statement.
But he declined comment on whether he had presented the statement to Tokyo prosecutors when asked by reporters in the morning, saying, "I will make no comments as they would lead to speculation."