Polls point to Koizumi victory

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's party is on track to win a comfortable majority in the 480-seat lower house of parliament in Sunday's election, according to the latest poll.

A big victory will cement Koizumi's grip on power and allow him to press ahead with reforms, starting with the privatisation of the post office. Opposition to this plan from within his own party prompted him to call the snap election.

In one opinion poll published in Saturday's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, 30 percent said they would vote for Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the proportional representation section of the election, 11 percentage points more than the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

In a poll published Friday in the Nihon Keizai newspaper, the LDP had the support of 52 percent of voters, compared with 34 percent for the Democratic Party.

The Nihon Keizai reported on its Web site Friday that while the DPJ had narrowed the gap by 3 percentage points from last week's poll, the LDP still enjoyed majority support.

The poll was conducted online from Tuesday through to Thursday this week.

The Nihon Keizai asked voters to name the party affiliations of the candidates they planned to vote for in their single-seat districts.

Based on this, the survey found the LDP's approval rating dipped slightly from 54 percent last week to 52 percent this week. Support for the DPJ rose from 33 percent to 34 percent.

The Nikkei poll follows one on Wednesday by the conservative Sankei newspaper which also showed voters supported Koizumi in his plans to privatize the postal system.

The Sankei poll indicated the coalition of the LDP and the New Komeito party would win at least 252 seats. That would allow the coalition to chair all committees in the lower house, easing the passage of legislation.

On Friday, the Asahi newspaper said its polls indicated Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would win at least 241 seats in parliament's 480-seat lower house, the Reuters news service reported.

Other media polls published earlier in the week showed the LDP was headed for a majority on its own and that the two ruling parties together could win 269 seats.

Koizumi called the election after lawmakers in the LDP joined with the opposition last month to kill bills that would privatize the postal system, a financial giant with some $3 trillion in assets that has been criticized for funding wasteful public works projects, Reuters reported.

According to the Nihon Keizai poll, 27 percent of voters with no party preference support Koizumi's postal privatization plan. Thirteen percent support the DPJ's alternative of reducing the size of Japan Post, but keeping it as a public entity. About 30 percent are undecided.

Before Koizumi dissolved the parliament, the LDP had 249 seats, but he refused to give the 37 LDP rebels party backing for the election. New Komeito had 34 seats, giving the coalition a total of 283. The main opposition Democratic Party held 175.

The Sankei newspaper said Wednesday that 20 to 30 percent of respondents remained undecided, and noted that the random telephone survey of 43,530 voters carried out between September 1 to 4 might not accurately represent younger voters who only have mobile phones.

Some election campaigners have warned against taking such surveys at face value given the large number of undecided and difficulties of obtaining a representative sample, Reuters reported.

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