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'Japan not planning snap election'

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso said he would not call a snap election despite his plunging public approval ratings, saying he needs to focus on the country's sputtering economy.

world Updated: Dec 24, 2008 10:41 IST

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Wednesday he would not call a snap election despite his plunging public approval ratings, saying he needs to focus on the country's sputtering economy.

Aso, who assumed office in September, said he wants to make sure the economy does not weaken further, and that it is not the right time to call elections.

Opposition leaders have demanded that Aso call a snap poll to prove he has a public mandate.

Aso can dissolve parliament and call elections at any time, but he does not need to do so for the lower house until their terms run out next September.

"We are not in a situation in which we can discuss such things," he said.

Public support for Japan's government has plummeted amid disappointment over the new prime minister's efforts to revive the economy. Surveys earlier this month by three major newspapers _ the Yomiuri, Mainichi and Asahi _ showed backing for opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa had risen above Aso for the first time. The surveys, which show Aso's approval rating hovering near 20 percent, signal serious trouble for the prime minister. He took the helm of Japan's unpopular ruling party with a promise to revive public support and high expectations that he would call elections soon.