Voters in Japan appear to have delivered a heavy blow to the government.
According to exit polls in an election for the upper house, the ruling coalition has lost its majority there.
If so that could make it much harder for the government to push through unpopular financial reforms to deal with the country’s massive debt crisis.
And it could cost the prime minister his job. Naoto Kan has only held the post for a month and is vowing to stay on but many predict he could face challenges from within his Democratic Party of Japan if the polls prove accurate.
Kan’s election initially prompted a surge in the DPJ’s ratings but that plummeted when he floated the idea of sales tax hikes.
Japanese media sources say the head of the opposition Liberal Democrats has already dismissed coalition talks and wants an early general election.
This vote was only for half of the seats in the upper chamber and Kan still holds a majority in the lower house. But a negative result could still render his government’s position untennable.