TOKYO — Japan's centre-left government scored its first triumph in an otherwise dismal six months Tuesday when it pushed a signature campaign bill through the lower house of parliament.
The pro-family bill will scrap public high school fees and give families 140 dollars a month for every child under 15 -- part of Premier Yukio Hatoyama's promise to put "people first" after Japan's half-century under conservative rule.
The pledge was a cornerstone of Hatoyama's election victory, which supporters said would herald a sea change in Japanese politics.
But the six months since his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was swept to power have seen support ebb away, with a poll by the Asahi daily on Tuesday showing a new low 32 percent of voters think his cabinet is doing a good job.
The figures, which come ahead of July upper house elections, are in stark contrast to the over 70 percent approval ratings the DPJ enjoyed when it laid waste to the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party.
Since then the government has been dogged by a series of money scandals, including undeclared donations Hatoyama's millionaire-mother gave to her son, and a probe into the political funds of the party's secretary general.
Hatoyama has also been criticised as being lofty and indecisive, especially in his handling of a festering dispute with Washington over the relocation of a controversial US military base on Okinawa island.
The DPJ has a large majority in the lower house of the Diet and the passage of the bill Tuesday was never in doubt. It now goes to the upper house, where Hatoyama's party relies on the support of two minor coalition partners.