Aso hints at calling snap election

by Masami Ito

Despite his dwindling opinion poll numbers, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that he will dissolve the Lower House before too long, brushing off growing calls within his own Liberal Democratic Party to find a new leader.

“I will not say today when I am going to dissolve it, but I believe it will be in the not-so-distant future,” Aso said during a speech at the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

With the terms of House of Representative legislators expiring in September, all eyes are on the prime minister to see if and when he will dissolve the chamber and call a snap election. Aso repeated his intent Thursday.

“Last September, I ran for the (LDP) presidency and won many votes,” Aso said. “I myself believe that I have the responsibility to fulfill my duties as the president” to dissolve the lower chamber.

Dissolving the chamber is Aso’s sole right as prime minister. But even his own party has begun to openly call for finding a new president. Lawmaker Taku Yamamoto, who is drawing up a petition in the LDP for a presidential race ahead of the election, said on his Web site Wednesday that he already has 110 signatures.

Aso, however, argued that holding a presidential election before the representatives’ terms end would adversely affect the party before the general election.

“I think that would give a negative impression to the public,” Aso said.

Aso is the fourth to be named prime minister since the last general election, in 2005, when Junichiro Koizumi stayed on at the post. The LDP veterans who followed him — Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda — quit only after a year in the hot seat.

With the Shizuoka gubernatorial and Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections both coming up in early July, political insiders and analysts say Aso may be forced to step down if the LDP fares poorly.

But Aso stressed that a national election and a local race are two different things.