Japan opposition censures prime minister

Japan's upper house on Wednesday slapped Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda with a censure motion that effectively stalls parliament and heaps pressure on the premier to call snap elections.

The non-binding motion, a symbolic wrist slap signalling the opposition's refusal to work with Noda's cabinet, would all but end the legislative session as it threatens to gridlock the passage of any new law.

The move would likely nix a proposed debt financing bill and force the government to adjust its budget for the year to March 2013.

Opposition parties boycotted passage of the bill -- which would help finance about 40 percent of public spending in this fiscal year -- in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday.

Public support ratings for Noda's cabinet were down to 30 percent in recent surveys and the opposition have demanded that he call a general election as they move to oust his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) from power.

This month Noda was forced to promise the leading opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that he would call elections in return for their support for a bill that would double Japan's sales tax to 10 percent by 2015 -- seen as key to chopping the country's massive public debt.

The legislation, which at the same time makes provision to revamp Japan's precarious social security system, has been the main focus of Noda's premiership.

Its passage was a rare tangible achievement in the revolving-door world of Japanese leaders that has seen six prime ministers in as many years, but could cost Noda, who has only been in office for 11 months, his job.

Observers say the ruling DPJ is likely to suffer at the hands of voters disappointed by their lacklustre three years in office, after five decades of almost unbroken LDP rule.

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