Opinion polls forecast losses for Japan's ruling Democratic Party in upper house elections Sunday, endangering Prime Minister Noato Kan's economic plans and even his ability to remain in office.

Mr. Kan became prime minister in June, when his predecessor Yukio Hatoyama resigned after failing to fulfill a campaign promise to remove a U.S. air base from Okinawa island.  The new leader has focused his campaign on a promise to curb Japan's massive public debt.

Polls show Mr. Kan's party will lose about four of its 54 seats in the upper house, leaving its coalition with the People's New Party short of a majority.  That would force the prime minister to seek new coalition partners for his fiscal reform plans, and could invite a challenge to his party leadership later this year.

Sunday's election affects only half the seats in the 242-member upper chamber, where Mr. Kan has announced his goal of holding onto the 54 seats his party now has.  His party will retain its majority in the powerful lower chamber, which is not up for re-election.

The Democratic Party of Japan swept to power last year, replacing the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan which had ruled the country for most of the past 50 years.


Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.