- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TOKYO (Agence France-Presse) — Japan’s ruling bloc has failed to boost its sagging popularity just days ahead of elections, a poll showed yesterday, as the government remained mired in scandals.

Japan holds elections Sunday for its upper house of parliament. A defeat for the ruling coalition is likely to cost Prime Minister Shinzo Abe his job.

Mr. Abe, an outspoken conservative, has championed security issues during his 10-month tenure, but his agenda has been increasingly overshadowed by scandals and gaffes by his top aides.

Public approval of Mr. Abe’s Cabinet remained at 30 percent, unchanged from last week, while disapproval went up one percentage point to 56 percent, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan had an edge of about 10 percentage points over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, although about 30 percent of voters were undecided, the poll said.

Farm Minister Norihiko Akagi was hit over the weekend by a fresh money scandal.

Mr. Akagi, a close Abe ally, took office in June after the suicide of his predecessor amid a separate political funding scandal.

Press reports said a group of Akagi supporters listed expenses of $100,000 over seven years to rent an office, even though it had left the space.

Mr. Akagi said he was not aware of the group’s existence and blamed the error on his accountant.

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