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Saturday, July 10, 2010
Sengoku sees last-minute resurgence for DPJ at polls
By JUN HONGO
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku on Friday downplayed media projections of a defeat for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in Sunday's Upper House election, saying his party still has 48 hours to regain voter support.
"We still have today and tomorrow left for campaigning. I've run in elections myself and know that this is when crunch time begins," Sengoku told reporters after being asked about the dismal forecasts.
Sengoku said Prime Minister Naoto Kan's goal of winning at least 54 seats — the number of DPJ seats up for grabs in Sunday's election — remains unchanged. Polls by major newspapers Friday showed the DPJ could instead fall short of 50.
Sengoku declined comment on how the Cabinet would take responsibility if it fails to reach the goal of controlling both houses of the Diet.
"Instead of commenting on media projections, we need to give all our efforts and gain public trust toward this administration," he said.
The magic number for the DPJ was originally 60 seats, which when combined with its 62 seats that are uncontested in Sunday's vote would give the party a single-party majority in the 242-seat Upper House.
But if the party falls well below that figure as per the media's projections, it would fail to secure a majority in the Upper House even with the cooperation of its minor coalition partner, Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party). The DPJ and Kokumin Shinto together need 56 seats to retain a majority in the Upper House.
In addition to the media forecasts, recent polls have shown a sharp decline in public support for Kan's Cabinet.
Despite assuming power in June with a public support rating of over 65 percent, the DPJ administration has lost nearly a third of that after only a month in power, according to the latest polls. Observers speculate the swift slide was influenced by Kan's suggestion that the consumption tax should be raised to 10 percent to reduce the public debt.
Kan's position safe
Yukio Edano, Democratic Party of Japan secretary general, on Friday ruled out the possibility of Prime Minister Naoto Kan stepping down if the ruling party fares poorly in this Sunday's election.
"The Constitution says that the House of Representatives picks the prime minister," Edano told reporters in Kochi. "More than 300 lawmakers in the chamber have named him the prime minister. The nuts and bolts won't change."
The DPJ swept to power last summer after a landslide victory in the election for the more powerful Lower House.
Consequently, regardless of the Upper House election outcome, the DPJ will stay in power for some time. But a majority in the Upper House will help the ruling camp pass bills smoothly in the Diet.
Also, if the DPJ fares poorly in the election, it is almost certain that Kan's grip on the government will loosen and rifts will deepen within the ruling party ahead of the DPJ presidential election in September.