Move to oust Japan's PM loses steam

TOKYO, July 17, 2009 (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso appeared Friday to have survived a brewing party rebellion, after rebel lawmakers failed to secure enough support for a move to replace him ahead of looming elections.

Aso has faced pressure from some of his own party members to step down before August's general election that looks likely to bring an end to his Liberal Democratic Party's half-century of almost uninterrupted rule.

But an incipient party revolt seemed to have fizzled out after some lawmakers withdrew their backing for a proposed meeting that could have forced a vote on whether to elect a new party president.

Instead the party will hold a gathering on Tuesday with no vote so that Aso can "declare his resolve and policies" ahead of the general election he has called for August 30, LDP secretary general Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters.

"Party members have various opinions. This forum will provide an opportunity to voice them," Hosoda said, adding that the meeting should help unite the party.

Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, who had reportedly asked Aso to step down, welcomed the outcome, in what was seen as a softening of his stance.

"It's good that we will go through an important process before the dissolution," he told reporters. Aso has said he will dissolve parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Voter surveys suggest Aso's party is likely to lose next month's election as voters turn to the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan amid anger over his numerous gaffes, handling of the economy and policy flip-flops.

Some members of his own party have openly urged him to quit and dissidents in the LDP submitted signatures from 133 lawmakers to party executives on Thursday, requesting a meeting of members from both houses of parliament.

The signatures included two of Aso's own cabinet members -- Yosano and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

Under party rules, the LDP must hold a general meeting of its members of parliament within a week if more than one-third of them demand it.

LDP official Masatoshi Wakabayashi, who would have chaired the general meeting, said the number of signatures did not reach the threshold of 128.

Aso, a 68-year-old former diamond trader and one-time Olympic marksman, took office in September with a mission to revive the LDP. He is Japan's third premier since the popular Junichiro Koizumi stepped down in 2006.

Source: AFP

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