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Most Japanese want Aso to quit early

ALMOST four out of five Japanese voters want Prime Minister Taro Aso to quit within months and just over half want the opposition to win power, a poll showed yesterday, the latest bad news for the ruling party in an election year.

Public support for 68-year-old Aso, already slumping after policy flip-flops and gaffes, took another hit when close ally Shoichi Nakagawa quit as finance minister last week after being forced to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference in Rome.

Some in Aso's own conservative Liberal Democratic Party have called for him to be replaced ahead of an election that must be held by October, although Japan has already had three premiers since the last election in 2005.

The new finance minister, 70-year-old Kaoru Yosano, is emerging as a frontrunner to replace Aso, although an analyst said it was unclear if the LDP would rally around him.

The Mainichi newspaper survey, released on the eve of Aso's meeting with United States President Barack Obama in Washington today, showed that 39 percent wanted the prime minister to resign immediately. Another 39 percent said he should step down after the budget for the fiscal year from April is passed.

Parliament is debating a record 88.5 trillion yen (US$947 billion) government budget for the next year as slumping exports send bankruptcies soaring and the economy into a deepening recession. The budget is expected to be approved by parliament's lower house this week.

The global credit crisis is increasing its grip on Japan with businesses that feed parts and services to major exporters, and employ 70 percent of Japanese workers, caught in a squeeze between sliding orders and tightened lending.


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