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Support for Japan government drops further ahead of poll

TOKYO (Reuters) - Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government has sunk to 23.7 percent, a poll by Jiji news agency showed on Friday, threatening his Democratic Party's chances of winning a midyear election.

Voters have been disillusioned by financial scandals enveloping the party's No.2 executive Ichiro Ozawa and other Democrats, and by Hatoyama's perceived lack of leadership on a range of issues, including a stand-off with Washington over a U.S. military base.

A poor showing in the election for parliament's upper house, expected in July or August, could result in a policy deadlock as the country struggles to nurture a fragile economic recovery and rein in its massive public debt.

The Jiji survey also showed that 17.7 percent plan to vote for the ruling Democratic Party in the upper house election, down 3.4 points from the previous month's survey, against 16.8 percent who opted for the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Opinion polls by Jiji, conducted through face-to-face interviews, tend to show support at about 5 to 10 percentage points lower compared with other polls, which are done by telephone.

Hatoyama's government boasted support rates of about 70 percent when he took power after a landslide victory in the more powerful lower house of parliament last year.

But recent polls by television networks show support has been languishing just above or below 30 percent.

Hatoyama has promised to resolve by the end of May the dispute over the relocation of the U.S. airbase on the southern island of Okinawa, and some in his party have said he might have to resign if he cannot reach a solution.

About half of Japan's voters support no political party, according to a poll out last week, a sign of mounting frustration with both the ruling and opposition parties.

(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Sugita Katyal)