Japan PM eyes July election, opposition resists

* Upper house election expected on July 11

* Unclear if DPJ can win majority despite ratings jump

* Ruling DPJ needs majority for smooth policymaking

By Chisa Fujioka

TOKYO, June 16 (BestGrowthStock) – Japan’s main opposition party
submitted a symbolic no-confidence motion against Prime
Minister Naoto Kan’s cabinet on Wednesday as Kan looked set to
rush into a national election to capitalise on a jump in
ratings.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) support rates
have bounced since Kan took over from his unpopular predecessor
Yukio Hatoyama last week, improving the party’s chances in a
likely July 11 vote for parliament’s upper house.

The DPJ will stay in power regardless of the election
outcome given its majority in the lower house, but the party
needs to win in the upper chamber to forge ahead smoothly with
policies to cut the country’s huge public debt. [ID:nSGE65D0BK]

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Graphic on voter intentions http://link.reuters.com/jev83j

Graphic on voter support http://r.reuters.com/myv63g

For possible election scenarios, click [ID:nTOE65F00Z]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

Lambasting the DPJ for not extending the current session of
parliament after the abrupt leadership change, the main
opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) handed in a motion of
no-confidence against the cabinet on the last day of debate.

But the move was largely symbolic, since opposition parties
are outnumbered by the ruling bloc in the powerful lower
chamber. Opposition parties also submitted non-binding censure
motions against Kan and a cabinet minister to the upper house.

“If debate took place, their (the Democrats’) support rate
would fall,” Jiro Kawasaki, an LDP executive in charge of
parliamentary affairs, told reporters.

“Prime Minister Kan is clearly running away.”

Kan, Japan’s fifth premier in three years, has rejected
calls for an extended parliament session, listening instead to
DPJ lawmakers who want an election as soon as possible.

Media polls show support for Kan’s cabinet at around 60
percent, a jump from around 20 percent during Hatoyama’s final
days in office. [ID:nTOE65903N]

ELECTION CHANCES

Kan has revamped the DPJ’s image among voters, tapping
policy experts for key cabinet posts and distancing himself
from a scandal-tainted party kingpin who was seen as pulling
the strings in Hatoyama’s government.

“Former prime minister Hatoyama had no heart. He had no
ability to judge the situation properly so it all ended in
disaster,” said retiree Kyoko Suiguchi, 65.

“I’ll be voting for Kan’s (party) because they really know
what they’re doing.”

But while the leadership change has improved the DPJ’s
election chances, it remains unclear if the party can win an
outright majority and avoid policy deadlock as it tries to
strengthen an economic recovery and fix tattered public
finances.

Fiscal problems in Europe and growing market concerns about
sovereign debt risk have prompted Kan to make tackling Japan’s
public debt — now near twice the size of GDP — a top
priority.

If the Democrats fail to win a majority, it would need to
maintain its current coalition with the tiny, pro-spending
People’s New Party (PNP), or seek help from other allies to
pass bills, complicating policy making.

“There is still a month before the election so the
Democrats’ ratings could well cool by then,” said Mikitaka
Masuyama, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for
Policy Studies.

“It’s likely that no party wins a majority and there will
be a lot of political jockeying after the election to pull
together groups for a majority,” Masuyama said.

Stock Investing

(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Paul Tait)

Japan PM eyes July election, opposition resists