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Survey: Koizumi Public Support Declines - 2002-02-26

Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is continuing to fall according to the latest surveys. People are questioning the leader's commitment to reform the country's ailing economy and its bureaucratic political system.

A nationwide telephone poll by Japan's TV Tokyo finds that the approval rating for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his cabinet has slipped below 50 percent for the first time. A survey by the Yomiuri Newspaper shows that public support for the leader has plunged dramatically to a rating of 53-percent.

Until last month, Mr. Koizumi maintained unprecedented popularity levels of 80-percent or more. But voters say they are disappointed that he has not made more progress on his pledge to reform Japan's stagnant economy.

Japanese government spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, told reporters that he hopes the dip is temporary. He says "the priority is to deal with the country's economic problems." He adds that "it will take a little more time for people to understand the government's approach," Mr. Fukuda said

The government will unveil a highly-touted deflation-fighting package on Wednesday. It is expected to contain measures to further ease monetary policy and to dispose of bad bank loans. It is a key plank of the prime minister's Economic blueprint.

But political woes our also weighing on the Japanese leader. The public is still skeptical of his decision to fire the controversial but popular Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka last month.

Ms. Tanaka, who was an outspoken critic of the scandal-ridden and bureaucracy-laden Foreign ministry, was let go following a series of disputes with her aides and lawmakers. She had been considered a political maverick, much like the prime minister. So her firing left the impression that Mr. Koizumi himself might be less committed to political reformed than he had pledged.