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Updated: June 1, 2010 19:11 IST

Hatoyama faces resignation calls after base flip-flop

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. File photo: AP.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. File photo: AP.

More lawmakers in Japan’s governing party on Tuesday called for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to resign as the government saw a new fall in the steady decline of its approval ratings.

“Calls for Hatoyama to step down are mounting within the Democratic Party of Japan, especially those who are to contest an upcoming upper house election” in July, said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo—based political analyst.

Party leaders, including Ichiro Ozawa, the powerful secretary general, warned Mr. Hatoyama on Monday that the DPJ would suffer a crushing election defeat if the situation went unchanged, media reports said.

Mr. Hatoyama met with Mr. Ozawa and Azuma Koshiishi, the leader of the DPJ upper house caucus after returning to Tokyo from southern Japan, where he discussed measures to fight an outbreak of foot—and—mouth disease in livestock.

The three decided to “continue exchanging opinions,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told reporters.

Mr. Hatoyama reiterated he had no intention of resigning as Japan’s leader.

His flip—flop on the US military presence on the island of Okinawa helped erode his popularity, analysts said.

Before last year’s election, Mr. Hatoyama told Okinawans repeatedly that he would not let another US military base be built on the island, but last week his government agreed to a US request to relocate a base on Okinawa to a less—populated area of the island despite local opposition.

The Social Democratic Party, a small leftist party, decided to bolt from the three—party governing coalition on Sunday after Mr. Hatoyama went back on his campaign promise.

The premier on Friday dismissed Mizuho Fukushima, the SDP leader, as minister of consumer affairs and gender equality after she refused to approve an agreement over the base relocation.

According to the latest opinion survey by the Kyodo News agency, more than half of those polled wanted Mr. Hatoyama to resign, and the approval rating for his cabinet fell below 20 per cent for the first time since he took office in September when the rating stood at 72 per cent.

The Kyodo poll showed 51.2 per cent said Mr. Hatoyama should step down as prime minister because he failed to resolve the base issue in a way he had promised. Support for his cabinet declined to 19.1 per cent, down 1.6 percentage points from a month earlier, the poll showed. The telephone survey was conducted Saturday and Sunday.

The DPJ won a historic landslide victory in the August general election, ending more than a half—century of almost uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Still, the DPJ holds 307 seats of a total of 480 seats in the powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister.

Asked which party they would vote for in the July election, 20.9 per cent chose the LDP, up 1 point from the previous poll in late April, while 19.9 per cent named the DPJ, down 3.5 points.

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