Former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Koichi Kato said Thursday that if Prime Minister Taro Aso retains power, the Lower House general election will likely be held in August after the Group of Eight summit in July.

“If the Aso administration continues, I think the election will be held after the summit,” Kato said at a lecture organized by Kyodo News at a hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo. “I think Aso feels strongly that the prime minister’s duty is to make Japan’s position clear at the summit.”

Kato’s views echo those of many other observers that the July summit could be a good opportunity for Aso to get a diplomatic achievement under his belt before calling the Lower House election, which must be held by September at the latest.

With the support rate for the Aso Cabinet continuing to plunge, some Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have begun hinting at the possibility of switching leaders and then holding the election.

There are also some strong voices in the LDP who say the poll could be held in late spring, after the fiscal 2009 budget and related bills clear the Diet.

Kato, however, said Aso has another reason to wait until summer, in addition to the G8 summit: Even if the budget and related bills clear the Diet, further economic measures will be necessary. This would take another three or four months to accomplish and would presumably benefit his government in an election.

Kato said Aso’s policy flip-flops and the strange behavior of ex-Finance Minister Nakagawa Shoichi at a news conference after the Group of Seven meeting in Rome have further eroded the Cabinet’s popularity.

“The impact of Nakagawa’s drunken news conference was severe enough to call it an ultimate blow,” Kato said.

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