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October 20, 2009

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Japanese opposition chief takes shrine risk

SADAKAZU Tanigaki, the leader of Japan's struggling opposition Liberal Democratic Party, paid his respects at a Tokyo war shrine yesterday, Kyodo news agency said, in what could be a bid to boost support among conservatives.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose Democratic Party toppled the long-ruling LDP in an August election, has said he will stay away from Yasukuni shrine, which is dedicated to the Japanese war dead, including the class-A war criminals of World War II.

While Hatoyama rides high in media opinion polls, with more than 70 percent saying they support him, former Finance Minister Tanigaki has failed to create a strong impression since being voted leader in September.

Only 29 percent of respondents to a poll published in the Nikkei business daily yesterday said they had high expectations of Tanigaki, while 57 percent said they did not.

When asked who was most suitable to be Japan's leader, 67 percent picked Hatoyama, while only 12 percent opted for Tanigaki, the paper said.

The polls come as Hatoyama tackles the tough task of funding ambitious spending programs - when tax revenues are falling - without raising fears about further inflating Japan's already huge public debt, the biggest among advanced nations.

Asked what policy issues they would like the government to prioritize, 64 percent of respondents in the Nikkei survey said cutting wasteful spending.

The Democrats came into power pledging to reduce waste and focus spending on consumers. The Cabinet has already found 2.9 trillion yen (US$31.9 billion) in what it considers wasteful spending.


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