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72% support snap election in Japan before tax hike to boost defense spending: poll

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida enters his office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 16, 2023. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- A majority believe Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should dissolve the lower house and call an election before going through with any tax increases in Japan, a weekend opinion poll by the Mainichi Shimbun found.

    Prime Minister Kishida wants to increase Japan's national defense budget to 43 trillion yen (about $333 billion) over the next five years, partly covered by tax increases. In response, some members of his own party have said that the House of Representatives should be dissolved before any increases are passed.

    In the poll, 68% of respondents opposed the tax hikes, compared to just 22% who were in favor. An even higher proportion, 72%, believed Kishida should dissolve the lower house and seek a public mandate before implementing the increases, greatly exceeding the 18% who did not think he should do so. Even among supporters of the current Cabinet, nearly half believed the lower house should be dissolved.

    The poll, conducted on Jan. 21 and 22, also asked for people's opinions on Kishida's meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden to strengthen Japan's alliance with the United States, with an eye on Russia and China. Sixty percent of respondents felt this was a good move, while 23% did not. At their meeting on Jan. 13, the leaders agreed to deepen talks to improve the alliance's ability to deter and respond to threats.

    The survey asked respondents whether they felt that skyrocketing prices for things like food, utilities and other essentials have made their lives difficult. Seventy-one percent answered yes, while just 16% said no, and 12% gave a neutral response. Though the results cannot be simply compared with last June's survey because the question was phrased differently, in that poll, 66% answered that they felt rising prices had made their home finances difficult, compared to 17% who did not feel so, while 16% gave a neutral response.

    While the prime minister has made calls for businesses to raise wages, a majority in Japan -- 82% -- said they did not expect this to materialize on a wide scale within the year. Only 8% expected that it would. At a news conference to mark the new year on Jan. 4, Kishida said that wage increases "must take place one way or another," but it's apparent that people remain skeptical.

    While Kishida has called for the government to strengthen its measures to combat the decline in the country's birth rate, only 31% of respondents expected the measures to have an impact, versus 52% who did not. In moving toward implementing Kishida's "measures on a different dimension," the first meeting between government ministries handling the matter was held on Jan. 19.

    The number of births in the country in 2022 is estimated to have fallen below 800,000 for the first time since records began to be kept in 1899. Some within Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party believe tax raises are necessary to fund the measures.

    (Japanese original by Nanae Ito, Political News Department)

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