Japan opposition LDP remains election favorite: poll

Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:34am EST
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) saw its voter support slip, but still maintained a commanding lead against rivals, including the ruling Democratic Party, ahead of a December election, public opinion polls showed on Monday.

The Nikkei business daily survey said 25 percent of those polled said they would vote for the LDP in a lower house election on December 16, while 16 percent would vote for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

The LDP figure represented a loss of 2 percentage points from the previous Nikkei poll, while the DPJ gained 5 percentage points.

More significantly, poll figures showed the new Japan Restoration Party, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, earned 11 percent support and the Sunrise Party, led by nationalist ex-Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, stood at 4 percent.

A Kyodo news agency poll credited the Japan Restoration Party with 6.8 percent and Sunrise with 1.0 percent.

Over the weekend, the two new parties agreed to merge under the 80-year-old Ishihara's leadership, despite serious policy gaps, such as the role of nuclear power in Japan's energy mix.

Analysts see the election ushering in a period of confusing coalition politics, partly because of a spate of new parties courting voters discontented with the LDP and the DPJ and because whoever wins will still lack a majority in parliament's upper house, which can block bills.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament on Friday, but the election is unlikely to fix a policy stalemate that has plagued a country struggling to cope with an ageing population, a declining manufacturing sector and the emerging power of China.

Polls by other news outlets, the Asahi Shimbun daily, the Mainichi Shimbun daily and Kyodo, produced a similar LDP lead. But they also showed large numbers of undecided voters -- 44 percent of respondents in the Asahi, 43 percent in the Kyodo and 36 percent in the Mainichi -- who said they did not support any particular party, a sign of campaign battles to come to win over swing voters.   Continued...

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (R) and main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe speak at a parliamentary debate in Tokyo, in this November 14, 2012 file combination photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files