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The BBC's Francis Markus in Tokyo
"Latest in a series of gaffes"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 June, 2000, 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Japan row over sleepy voters
Mori on the campaign trail
Mr Mori is struggling to win over undecided voters
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has been criticised for saying undecided voters should just stay in bed during elections on Sunday.

It'd be great if they stay disinterested and stay asleep

Yoshiro Mori
Mr Mori, who has already suffered a sharp drop in popularity for remarks interpreted as harking back to Japan's militaristic past, said about 40% of the electorate were uninterested or unsure who to vote for on Sunday.

"Those people who aren't interested should just stay in bed," he told reporters whilst campaigning in northern Japan on Tuesday.

"Of course that would be bad," he quickly added.

Voters at campaign rally
Surveys suggest about 50% of voters could be undecided
The Japanese media have focussed intensely on his comments.

Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said such a statement was "outrageous".

Mr Hatoyama said all candidates should share the view that as many people as possible should vote.

Other politicians said the comment suggested Mr Mori's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was afraid of uncommitted voters.

Falling popularity

Correspondents say a high turnout in elections has traditionally worked against the LDP which has ruled Japan almost continuously since the end of the World War II.

At present the LDP's position in government is based upon a coalition with two other smaller parties.

An opinion poll published on Wednesday in the Asahi Shimbun national newspaper found that 52% of voters said they did not support any party, and of those, nearly 70% had not yet decided how they would vote.

Mr Mori's popularity has taken a battering in recent weeks at one point tumbling to just 12.5% following his controversial comments that Japan was a "divine nation" centred around the emperor.

He has since denied that he was referring to Japan's wartime emperor and apologised, although he has refused to retract his remark.

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's LDP faces poll test
17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese PM says sorry
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Japan: A divine country?
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori faces second censure vote
09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan fixes election date
07 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori pledges Japan 'rebirth'
02 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan heads for snap election
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese kingmaker dies
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