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Pressure mounts on Japan PM to resign

Japan's beleaguered Prime Minister Taro Aso faced mounting pressure to resign before the coming general election as lawmakers demanded the ruling party meet to decide his fate.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2009 09:54 IST

Japan's beleaguered Prime Minister Taro Aso on Thursday faced mounting pressure to resign before the coming general election as lawmakers demanded the ruling party meet to decide his fate.

Dissidents in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) submitted signatures from 133 party lawmakers to the party executive on Thursday, demanding a meeting of members from both houses of parliament, an official said.

The signatures included those of Aso's own cabinet ministers -- Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba -- although neither has said publicly they want Aso to resign.

Some who are in favour of holding the meeting want to discuss the recent series of defeats in local elections but others want to demand the party hold a leadership election to replace Aso, local media said.

"It's natural that the party executive office listens to the opinions of members of parliament. There is no need to avoid this," Yosano told reporters late Wednesday.

Under party rules, the LDP must hold a general meeting of its members of parliament within a week if more than one-third of them demanded it. The threshold currently stands at 128.

However, it is not clear if the meeting will go ahead because Aso is poised to dissolve the lower house of parliament on Tuesday for an August 30 general election that the LDP appears likely to lose.

Lawmakers lose their status upon dissolution, meaning they no longer have the authority to demand the meeting.

The opposition-controlled upper house passed a censure motion against Aso on Tuesday.

Aso survived a no-confidence vote Tuesday in the lower house, which is controlled by his ruling coalition, and has defied calls from some lawmakers within his own party to stand down ahead of the August election.

His popularity has sunk since he took office a year ago, hit by a series of gaffes, policy flip-flops and discontent with his handling of the economy.