Poll favours Japan opposition

TOKYO: Some 56 percent of Japanese voters want the main opposition party to take power, poll results showed Monday, as expectations grow that national elections next month will bring a rare political makeover to the country.

Most respondents back the opposition Democrat Party of Japan to win the vote for the lower house of parliament, with just 23 percent supporting the current ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to the poll published in the Mainichi newspaper.

The Liberal Democrats have ruled Japan for virtually all of the past 50 years.

After a string of losses by his party in local and special elections, Prime Minister Taro Aso last week called the national vote for Aug. 30, the first such parliamentary election since 2005.

He is widely expected to dissolve parliament on Tuesday.

The Democrats favor a more independent stance from the U.S., smaller government and more international peacekeeping missions for Japan's military.

The results of the Mainichi poll, which was taken over the weekend and showed support for the current Cabinet at just 17 percent.

A poll by the Kyodo News agency published Sunday showed that 36 percent of voters plan to cast their party ballot for the Democrats, with 16 percent to vote for the ruling party, though a large block, 35 percent, were still undecided. Under the Japanese system, voters cast a ballot for the party and another for a district representative.

The leader of the party that wins the parliamentary election is almost certain to become prime minister. The Liberal Democrats currently have 303 seats in the powerful 480-seat lower house, and their partner Komeito has 31. The Democratic Party has just 112.

Both polls were random telephone surveys taken of eligible voters nationwide. The Mainichi poll had 1,045 respondents, while the Kyodo poll had 1,243. Neither provided a margin of error, but for surveys of that size, both would have a margin of error of about 3 percent.