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Pressure grows for Aso to quit

A GROWING number of politicians in Japan's ruling party are frustrated with Prime Minister Taro Aso's leadership and want to replace him before a nationwide election due within months, one of them said yesterday.

Falling public support for Aso has renewed talk that his Liberal Democratic Party will dump him before the general election, which must be held by October.

Taku Yamamoto, a lower house politician, said he had collected half the 216 names needed in a petition that would bring forward the party's next vote for its leader, now scheduled for September.

"Lawmakers are doing their best to explain their achievements to the public, but they are criticized because of the prime minister," Yamamoto said.

"How can you keep quiet while coming under criticism?"

Recent surveys show the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and its allies have a good shot at taking power in the election, which many analysts expect in August. That would end more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the business-friendly LDP, which is suffering from voter angst over a deep recession and longer-term worries such as rising social security costs.

Aso's clout within the party has weakened after policy flip-flops and a highly public feud with a close ally who quit his cabinet post earlier this month, Yamamoto said.

Names of possible successors are already being floated in the media, including Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, although it is not clear if any of them will be popular enough to turn the tide in favor for the LDP.

Comedian-turned-governor Hideo Higashikokubaru said yesterday he would run in the election on the party ticket but only if he could be its next leader.


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