Japan ruling party on defensive to maintain sole lower house majority – polls

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faces a fight to maintain its sole majority in the weekend’s lower house election, opinion polls on Friday showed, although the coalition government itself is likely to remain safe.

The Sunday election is proving tough for the LDP, whose image was battered by its perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Losing its sole majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament could weaken recently appointed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and make him vulnerable to being replaced before next year’s upper house vote, some analysts say.

A former banker whose lacklustre image and pledges of a “new capitalism” have failed to inspire voters, Kishida has set a coalition target for a majority 233 seats in the 465-seat lower chamber, well below the 276 seats held by the LDP alone before the lower house was dissolved earlier this month.

Both the Nikkei and Yomiuri Shimbun dailies published polls on Friday showing the LDP may be hard pressed to hold 233 seats but its junior coalition partner, Komeito, should help the coalition maintain an overall majority.

The leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is likely to pick up some extra seats, the Nikkei said, estimating that around 40% of races in single seat districts were expected to be closely fought.

Support has dipped slightly for Kishida’s government despite his calling an election just weeks after taking office, which some analysts said might have been attempt to take advantage of the “honeymoon” period of good support often granted a new leader.

Some 47% of respondents said they supported the cabinet, while 32% said they did not, the Nikkei said. A similar question earlier in the race had cabinet support at 46% and lack of support at 29%.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Lincoln Feast.)

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