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TOKYO (Reuters) - An opinion poll shows Prime Minister Naoto Kan's party may miss his target to keep all of its seats at stake in Sunday's upper house election, Kyodo News Agency said, a result that could put Kan's job at risk.
Kan has said he wants his ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to hold on to the 54 seats it now has out of 121 that are up for grabs on Sunday in the 242-seat house.
The DPJ, which took power last year, will almost certainly run the government regardless of the July 11 result because it controls the powerful lower house, but it needs a majority in the upper chamber to enact laws and implement policies smoothly.
Kyodo said its own analysis of the results of a survey conducted from July 4-6 showed that the party could end up winning fewer than 50 seats, an outcome which some experts have said could put strong pressure on Kan to step aside.
PM support falls over sales tax, click http://r.reuters.com/myv63g
DPJ lead narrows over rival, click http://link.reuters.com/jev83j
Japan's massive public debt, click http://r.reuters.com/sez92m
Upper house seats before poll, click http://link.reuters.com/tuv85m
Kan, who took over from his unpopular predecessor in June, has put fiscal reform at the centre of the election campaign, including possibly doubling the 5 percent sales tax to curb the country's huge public debt nearing twice the size of the GDP.
The DPJ and its tiny ally People's New Party will have a tough time winning the 56 seats that would allow for them to control the upper chamber, Kyodo said. The prediction was in line with other media forecasts, and means the DPJ might need to seek new coalition allies to implement policies smoothly.
A weak showing would undercut Kan's ability to get backing from other parties to implement policies and could leave him vulnerable to a challenge from within his own party before his term as DPJ head ends in September.
The main opposition rival Liberal Democratic Party is likely to win around 46 seats, while the tiny pro-reform Your Party, which some experts see as a possible DPJ coalition partner, could win around 9 seats, Kyodo said.
Support for the DPJ rebounded after Kan, a former grassroots activist and a fierce debater, took over from unpopular Yukio Hatoyama in June, but has receded since he floated a possible sales tax hike.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Peter Graff)
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