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More than 80 Liberal Democratic Party members support a leadership vote to challenge unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso ahead of the general election this year, the campaign’s organizer said.

Taku Yamamoto, a four-term Lower House member, said he expects to get “a lot more” support if LDP candidates lose the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election July 12. He needs about 220 lawmakers and local party leaders on board to force a leadership ballot.

Aso’s approval ratings have plummeted following the resignation of internal affairs minister Kunio Hatoyama and last month’s election by the Democratic Party of Japan of a new leader to replace the scandal-tainted Ichiro Ozawa. One newspaper survey this week showed the DPJ has twice the voter support of the LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition.

“If the prime minister chooses to become a leader of a self-destructive battle like the one the Imperial army waged, there’s nothing to be done about it,” Yamamoto, 56, said in an interview in Tokyo Wednesday. “It will be better if he and other LDP members agree to hold an intraparty contest earlier.”

Aso, 68, has repeatedly declined to say when he will dissolve the Lower House and call an election, a decision he must make by Sept. 10. The uncertainty is causing frustration among lawmakers in the LDP.

“It’s mentally tough, not knowing when the election will be held,” LDP lawmaker Yuji Fujii said in an interview Wednesday. “The prime minister doesn’t decide, doesn’t show how he’ll decide, and time passes. He may be missing an opportunity.”

The signs are not promising. A candidate backed by the DPJ won the Chiba mayoral election last Sunday, the third straight defeat for the ruling bloc in local elections. New DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama has revived his party’s fortunes after predecessor Ozawa resigned over a campaign-finance scandal.

“Lawmakers are getting ready for the (LDP’s) defeat, and are now worried about their own survival,” said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University.

Aso, who is also struggling to pull Japan out of its worst postwar recession, last week lost a third Cabinet minister since taking office in September when Kunio Hatoyama, Yukio’s younger brother, resigned in a dispute with the prime minister over the reappointment of the president of Japan Post Holdings Co.

The ruling bloc is targeting a simple Lower House majority, a huge drop from the 2005 election, when the LDP alone gained two-thirds of the seats. The DPJ-led opposition camp took control of the less powerful Upper House in 2007.

“There’s no doubt the LDP is at a terminal stage, as its lawmakers are thinking only about themselves and it has run out of any possible means to come back from the dead,” Iwai said.

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