Polls open for Japan election, PM’s party struggles

Voting began on Sunday in a Japanese upper house election that could deal Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government a sharp setback, putting his job at risk and threatening steps to curb the country’s huge public debt.

Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan, which swept to power last year promising change, will almost certainly stay in power regardless of the outcome of the vote.

But it needs a majority in the less powerful of parliament’s two chambers to avoid policy deadlock and begin taking steps to reduce a public debt that is the worst among advanced countries.

Indecisiveness and funding scandals had eroded backing for the Democrat-led government, and while its poll ratings rebounded when Kan, Japan’s fifth premier in three years,  took over last month, support slipped again after he floated a rise in the 5 percent sales tax to help rein in public debt.


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