Poor social care may bring landslide for DPJ

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Japan's opposition Democratic Party may secure a landslide victory in Sunday's election, a media survey indicates. If so it would end more than five decades of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).  

Yukio Hatoyama's Democrats have promised to focus spending on households, cut waste and take away control of policy from the hands of bureaucrats, a sharp shift from the business-friendly LDP.

Japanese media predict the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will win by a landslide, ending a deadlock in parliament where the party and its allies control the less powerful upper chamber. Financial markets are said to generally welcome the prospect of smoother policy-making as Japan tries to revive its economy and deal with the challenges of an ageing and shrinking population.

However, some analysts are concerned the party's ambitious spending plans could inflate an already sky-high public debt and push up long-term interest rates.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan has promised to reverse some of the labor laws that many blame for the evaporation of Japan's much-vaunted job for life, as well as increasing spending on child support, healthcare and employment benefits.

Japan's rapidly growing ranks of unemployed are eligible for benefits depending on the years they have worked and the amount paid into the national employment insurance system. After a period of time the unemployed have to find their own means of support. With no state-supplied safety net to fall back on, ordinary Japanese are taking extreme actions; committing suicide or turning to crime.

In April, the body of a 47 year old unemployed man and his son, aged nine, were found in the back of a van parked in the grounds of a shrine near Osaka. The man had killed the boy and committed suicide, leaving a note saying he had lost the will to live. In the same month, a woman was arrested for forcing her two teenage daughters into prostitution, while in January, a man aged 49 was found dead in his apartment in Osaka after apparently starving to death. The man had failed to pay his rent for the previous three months and police found the equivalent of just 59 pence in his pocket and nothing in the refrigerator.

In such a climate many are turning away from the current government and pinning their hopes on a new administration that promises better social care.

(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2009)

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