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Japan's PM should quit, says survey

EMBATTLED Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso faced more pressure to resign yesterday as a poll showed more than 70 percent of respondents want him to quit and a senior politician within the ruling party questioned his ability to lead.

Aso's popularity has rapidly eroded recently fed by a deepening economic recession, a series of political gaffes and a perception of weak leadership.

The Asahi newspaper survey showed 71 percent of respondents want Aso to resign. It also found the approval rating for the Cabinet dipped to 13 percent - down 1 percentage point from two weeks ago.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they want an early election, according to the poll. Elections must be held for the powerful lower house of parliament by the end of September but could be called at any time.

Hidenao Nakagawa, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight and former chief cabinet secretary, said yesterday party support for Aso has also faded.

"Very few of us now want to head into elections under Mr Aso's leadership," Nakagawa told the TV Tokyo talk show. "But we'll have to wait until budget approval to decide if or when we should have a new leader or hold elections."

The approval for the budget is expected in April.

In another serious blow, popular former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi openly criticized Aso last week, threatening to oppose one of his key economic stimulus plans that opposition parties have called ineffective and a vote-buying attempt.

Koizumi's dissent deepened divisions within the Liberal Democratic Party, where he is still influential.

Aso also came under fire for not immediately firing Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa who resigned last week after claims he seemed drunk during a G7 news conference.


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