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Pressure mounts on Japan PM as parliament meets

Japan's parliament convened on Monday for a session on measures to revive the flagging economy with PM Taro Aso under pressure both from within and outside the ruling bloc to call a snap election.

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 08:53 IST

Japan's parliament convened on Monday for a session on measures to revive the flagging economy with Prime Minister Taro Aso under pressure both from within and outside the ruling bloc to call a snap election.

Aso, whose support rate has dwindled to around 20 per cent in recent polls, is introducing a 4.79 trillion yen (52 billion dollar) supplementary budget for the year to March 2008 and a record-high annual budget for fiscal 2009.

The packages include tax cuts, cash rebates and other incentives aimed at stimulating the world's second largest economy, which has slipped into recession.

"We face a mountain of difficult issues sitting before us. But let us be united and go through the parliament session," Aso told his ministers in the new year's first cabinet meeting, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

Economic measures will be the main focus of the Aso administration, Kawamura said as parliament started the 150-day session.

"We will turn the public anxiety into a sense of relief with this economic stimulus package, which ranks among the most far-reaching of measures" taken around the world, Kawamura said.

However, the Aso government faces tough battles on the legislative floor. The opposition, which controls the less powerful upper house, is gearing up to block bills from the ruling party and is demanding an early snap election.

Even some senior members from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which has been in power for all but 10 months since 1955 have launched fresh criticism against Aso in the new year.

Former LDP secretary general Hidenao Nakagawa lamented Aso's plan to raise the consumption tax in three years' time, saying the discussions could "further hurt the Japanese economy."

Nakagawa has also suggested starting a new faction within the ruling party by grouping lawmakers who oppose Aso's ideas.

Former reform minister Yoshimi Watanabe has also reiterated his call for snap elections and changes in the proposed budget.

Aso on Sunday said he would not call elections at least for a few months, pledging instead to tackle the worsening economic crisis.