The approval ratings of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama fell in several surveys published on Monday as financial scandals rocked the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
More Japanese voters have a negative view of their government than support it for the first time since the DPJ came to power in September, according to the polls.
The support rating for the prime minister’s cabinet fell six percentage points to 42 per cent in a survey by the Asahi newspaper while another daily, Yomiuri, found Mr. Hatoyama’s approval had dropped 11 points to 45 per cent.
The DPJ is being dogged by allegations of dodgy party donations and suspect land deals by its members. Much of the negative attention has focussed on DPJ secretary general Ichiro Ozawa, but Mr. Hatoyama’s own reputation has also been tainted. Three former and current Ozawa aides were arrested over political funding scandals over the weekend, just before the Diet convened on Monday for its 150-day ordinary session. They were accused of falsifying party fundraising reports in connection with the 2004 purchase of land in Tokyo.
Mr. Ozawa has also been associated in the media with suspect property dealings. He is bearing the brunt of the media criticism with 70 per cent of respondents calling for his resignation in a poll conducted by the Kyodo News agency. Many respondents said they feel Mr. Ozawa holds the real strings of power behind the scenes. As the driving force of the party, he is widely credited with his party’s historic victory in elections for Japan’s lower house of parliament in August.
Mr. Ozawa’s perceived strength is also seen as an indication of Mr. Hatoyama’s political weakness.
In the wake of these scandals, more than 44 per cent of respondents said they were opposed to the current administration, according to the Kyodo survey. The same research found that the prime minister retained the backing of 41.5 per cent of the electorate.
The scandals threaten to put the kibosh on several legislative projects aimed at stimulating the economy that the new government was hoping to pass during the current parliamentary session. The new state budget as well as economic stimulus measures also risk falling foul of the political paralysis. The drop in public support for the DPJ came ahead of the elections for the Diet’s upper house, scheduled for August.