- Title: JAPAN: Leader of the main Japanese opposition party resigns
- Date: 14th May 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (MAY 11, 2009) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY HEADQUARTERS AND SECURITY SURROUNDING THE HEADQUARTERS MEDIA OUTSIDE THE HEADQUARTERS
- Embargoed: 29th May 2009 10:14
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3QOACKWF3UBQ793U26606TA8N
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Japan opposition leader resigns after scandal eats into party's opinion poll lead.
Japanese opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa announced on Monday (May 11) he is resigning, after an opinion poll showed a funding scandal involving a close aide was clouding his party's prospects in a looming election.
A political stalemate and voter frustrations with Prime Minister Taro Aso had raised the chances Ozawa would lead his Democratic Party to victory in an election that must be held by October, ending more than 50 years of nearly unbroken rule by Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
But the Democratic Party's lead in polls had narrowed after the scandal, clouding the outlook for the solid opposition victory needed to break the deadlock that is stalling policy decisions as Japan struggles with a deepening recession.
"I have decided that by my retiring from my position, we will be able to strengthen our party's solidarity and speak more loudly in one voice as we strive to achieve our ultimate goal of a change in government,"
Ozawa told a news conference carried live on nearly all national broadcasters on Monday (May 11). He denied he was resigning to take responsibility for the scandal.
The Democrats have vowed to reduce bureaucrats' meddling in policy-making, stress the rights of consumers and workers over corporate interests, and adopt a diplomacy less subservient to security ally the United States.
A survey by the mass circulation Yomiuri newspaper published on Monday showed the Democrats still had a razor-thin lead over the LDP, but that more than two-thirds of voters responding to the poll questioned Ozawa's decision to stay on.
Polls before the scandal had shown the Democratic Party with a clear lead.
Aso has threatened to call an early election if the Democrats obstruct debate in parliament on a massive extra budget to stimulate the economy and counter the effects of the recession, although it is is unclear if he thinks the LDP's fortunes have improved enough to go to the polls.
While support for Aso's cabinet fell to 10 percent in one TV survey three months ago, the Yomiuri survey on Monday showed support now at at 28.7 percent, in line with a survey by broadcaster TBS, which put support at 31.4 percent.
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