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Japanese minister warns his party is in trouble

 Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso casts his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections at Tokyo's Chiyoda ward office, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009. (A...
 Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso hands his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections to an election official at Chiyoda ward office in Tokyo, Tu...
 Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso leaves after he casts his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections at Tokyo's Chiyoda ward office, Tuesday, A...
 Surrounded by security guards Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, center in a white jacket, the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, walks thr...

Japan Elections

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso casts his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections at Tokyo's Chiyoda ward office, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009. (A...

Japan Elections

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso hands his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections to an election official at Chiyoda ward office in Tokyo, Tu...

Japan Elections

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso leaves after he casts his absentee vote for the Aug. 30 general elections at Tokyo's Chiyoda ward office, Tuesday, A...

Japan Politics

Surrounded by security guards Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, center in a white jacket, the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, walks thr...

Voters across the nation are defecting from the ranks of Japan's ruling party, a senior party member said Tuesday, predicting a tough battle in elections this weekend that could thrust a largely untested opposition group into power.
The comment by Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano follows a series of public opinion polls indicating the Liberal Democratic Party _ which has governed Japan for most of the last 54 years _ will lose in a landslide to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan in parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Other members of the ruling party, including Prime Minister Taro Aso, have tried to play down the polls, saying a large number of voters claim to be undecided and they could swing the elections back in the ruling party's favor.
But Yosano said the party has lost support in Tokyo, Japan's capital and biggest city, and was facing a wave of voter revolt across the country. Yosano, who ran against Aso last year for the party presidency, has been elected from his Tokyo constituency nine times.
"Each constituency across Japan, without exception, is in a difficult situation," Yosano said at a news conference. "My constituency is no exception. A huge wave of the DPJ is sweeping over Tokyo. It looks like they could control the parliament under a one-party dictatorship."
In the latest poll, the Kyodo news agency projected Sunday the Democratic Party of Japan could win more than 300 of the 480 lower house seats being contested in the elections. That would allow it to comfortably unseat the Liberal Democrats, who have governed Japan since 1955, with the exception of one period of less than a year.
Other polls have made similar predictions.
The ruling party has watched its support plummet because of the fragile economy, increasing unemployment, a perceived lack of leadership and its support of higher taxes. Aso, who is the party's president, is widely seen as a weak leader. Recent polls have showed his support rating at less than 20 percent.
The prime minister, however, has said the situation remains fluid.
During a meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday, Aso told his ministers that the results in the previous lower house elections held four years ago were better than media projections.
"So let's not wince, and do our best until the very end," he was quoted as saying by Kyodo.
But clearly on the defensive, Aso has repeatedly argued the opposition, led by Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama, has not proven itself capable of running the country.
Other ministers, however, have echoed Yosano's concerns.
"If the outcome matches the media polls, the number of Liberal Democratic lawmakers will sharply decline and the country's political world would turn into a disaster," Kyodo quoted Health and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe as saying.
Reform Minister Akira Amari told reporters "the tailwind for the DPJ is stronger than ever."
The Democratic Party won control of the less powerful upper house in 2007 but has never controlled the Cabinet. It had 112 seats in the lower chamber before parliament was dissolved July 21. The Liberal Democrats, a conservative party that has traditionally represented big business and rural voters, held 300 seats.
Hatoyama, who would likely become prime minister if his party wins control of the lower house, has vowed not to become complacent in the final stretch of the campaign.
He made a series of campaign speeches in the Tokyo area on Tuesday, while other DPJ leaders were also on stumping tours across the country.