Efforts to oust Japan's PM falter
Sat, Jul 18, 2009

TOKYO, Japan - Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso appeared on Friday to have survived a brewing party revolt, 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 next month's general election, which looks likely to bring an end to his Liberal Democratic Party's half-century of almost uninterrupted rule.

But an incipient party rebellion 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 non-voting gathering on Tuesday 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, who has said he will dissolve parliament on Tuesday afternoon, later stressed the importance of his party's measures to tackle the recession.

"We have to return to full economic health in three years," he told a government panel.

"I want cabinet ministers to keep the focus on relevant measures and make employment and the economy a priority," Aso said.

Aso has repeatedly said the opposition DPJ has no viable economic policy.

However, voter surveys suggest the ruling party is likely to lose next month's election as voters turn to the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan amid anger over his gaffes, economic stewardship 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.

But some of them later withdrew their names. And LDP official Masatoshi Wakabayashi, who would have chaired the general meeting, said the number of signatures did not reach the threshold of 128.

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.

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.

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