Japan PM’s party at risk of setback in Sunday vote

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s ruling coalition could lose control of parliament’s upper house in an election today that could stall efforts to curb a huge public debt and put Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s job at risk.

Sagging support for the leading Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which surged to power for the first time last year, rebounded after Kan — Japan’s fifth leader in three years — replaced his indecisive predecessor last month.

But ratings slipped again after Kan floated the long taboo topic of raising the sales tax to curb a public debt already close to twice the size of the nearly $5 trillion economy. He struggled to persuade voters he had a clear plan to fix Japan’s economic woes.

Kan has since stressed he would not hike the sales tax “one yen” without seeking a mandate in the next lower house poll, which must be held by late 2013, but stressed that Japan must make tough decisions to avoid a Greek-style debt crisis.

“Ten to 30 years from now, will people look back and think, the prime minister said something catchy but things went wrong, or … the prime minister said what was bitter and harsh, but that was the start of rebuilding our economy and social security system?” Kan said yesterday as he wound up his campaign.

“I am determined to do something that will not go down in history with shame.”