Prime Minister Naoto Kan said it would be “difficult” for his Democratic Party of Japan to form a coalition government with the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party without public support.
Kan, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo marking the close of this year’s parliament session, said he was reaching out to former coalition partner Social Democratic Party to help pass legislation. While the DPJ ousted the LDP from half a century of almost unbroken government control in August 2009 it lost control of the upper house of parliament in July.
Teaming up with the Liberal Democrats “would be difficult unless the public comes to feel it’s necessary and acceptable,” Kan said, adding that he’s not “absolutely opposed” to the idea.
His six months in office have been marked by struggles to cope with deflation and a strong yen while trying to resolve diplomatic rows with China and Russia. The administration’s handling of the disputes has helped send his popularity plummeting by two-thirds. Kan today ruled out a Cabinet reshuffle to re-energize his government.
Kan needs the support of some opposition groups to implement next year’s budget, to be compiled this month, at a time of rising antagonism to his administration.
The upper house last month passed a non-binding censure motion against Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku for his handling of the collision of a Chinese fishing boat with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels, which soured relations between Asia’s two biggest economies. Opposition lawmakers accused Sengoku of arranging for the release of the fishing boat captain after his 17-day detention in an attempt to placate China.
Kan earlier today met with SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima to discuss cooperation on the budget. While the party supported legislation to fund Kan’s 5.1 trillion yen ($61.5 billion) stimulus plan, Fukushima today said her party opposes a DPJ proposal to relax the country’s ban on exporting military weapons.
Kan at today’s press conference reiterated his resolve to maintain the cap of new government bond issuance next fiscal year at no more than this year’s record level of 44 trillion yen.
Kan’s approval ratings dropped to 25 percent from 64 percent in June, according to a Yomiuri newspaper poll published today. More than 80 percent of respondents said his government isn’t managing the economy appropriately. The paper surveyed 1,053 voters between Dec. 5-7 and didn’t provide a margin of error.