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Japan opposition aims for govt by Sept. 20
Updated: 2009-08-24 15:00

TOKYO - Japan's opposition Democratic Party, which polls show is likely to win power in an election on Sunday, would aim to form a cabinet within three weeks so the new premier could attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting, a senior party lawmaker said.

Japan opposition aims for govt by Sept. 20
The leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party Yukio Hatoyama speaks at a news conference in Tokyo August 11, 2009. [Agencies] 

Newspaper surveys predict Yukio Hatoyama's decade-old Democratic Party of Japan will win the Aug. 30 vote by a landslide, ousting the business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for only the second time since its 1955 founding.

Public support for the LDP has frayed in the four years since charismatic leader Junichiro Koizumi led the party to a huge win in the last general election due to scandals, policy flip-flops and a perception that the party has failed to address the deep-seated problems of a shrinking, fast-ageing population.

Reflecting that trend, a survey by Kyodo news agency showed on Monday that 43 percent of independent voters, whose clout has grown in recent elections, were likely to opt for the opposition Democrats compared with 15.8 percent for the LDP.

Democratic Party deputy policy chief Tetsuro Fukuyama said on Monday that unless a new cabinet was in place by Sept. 20, it would be impossible for the new prime minister to attend the U.N. General Assembly, where leaders are set to give speeches from Sept. 23.

"As a general time-schedule, I think we will form a cabinet by then," Fukuyama told a news conference.

Hatoyama is also thought to want to attend a Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25.

Fukuyama also said a Democrat-led government would watch closely to see whether Japan's economy, emerging from its longest recession in 60 years, was really recovering or would sag again.

Japan's economy returned to growth in the second quarter but analysts have warned of a rocky road ahead as the nascent recovery was based on short-term government stimulus around the world.

"We have not seen an improvement in domestic capital investment, consumption or employment," Fukuyama said. "I have trepidation about whether we will see a recovery or whether the economy will hit bottom again and we must watch that closely."

Fukuyama reiterated that the party would focus on putting more money in the hands of households through such steps as child allowances and toll-free highways to stimulate domestic demand and wean Japan from reliance on exports for growth.

"I don't deny the importance of external demand, but ... unless we shift to domestic demand-led growth, the Japanese economy will not improve," he said.

Financial market participants, however, worry that spending plans by the Democrats, who have promised not to raise the 5 percent sales tax for the next four years, will inflate Japan's already huge public debt and push up government bond yields.