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2ND LD: LDP's Nakagawa, Tanahashi demand Aso step down as prime minister.

TOKYO, June 26 Kyodo

(EDS: RECASTING, ADDING INFO)

Hidenao Nakagawa, former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Yasufumi Tanahashi, a senior member of the LDP, openly demanded Friday that Prime Minister Taro Aso step down in an apparent bid to replace the unpopular party leader before a general election that must be called by the fall.

In a speech delivered at a meeting in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Nakagawa said Aso should ''make an honorable decision'' as prime minister and LDP leader to ''leave the LDP in power even though his own Cabinet comes to an end.''

The former secretary general said Aso's predecessor Yasuo Fukuda made such a decision. Fukuda resigned in September last year.

Tanahashi, a former science and technology minister, said he sought Aso's resignation after the prime minister appeared reluctant to approve his request not to spend the state budget for public corporations, which remunerates retired bureaucrats.

''We are troubled by a leader who cannot execute such an easy task. If the prime minister does nothing by early next week, we will consider taking concrete steps,'' Tanahashi, also the chairman of the LDP's Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters on public corporations, told reporters, without elaborating on what kind of action he would take.

Tanahashi had been attempting to crack down on the practice of ''amakudari'' in which senior bureaucrats land lucrative postretirement jobs at entities related to the sectors they formerly supervised.

The move by senior LDP members reflects deep-seated objections within the party to the prime minister, whose Cabinet's approval ratings have been plummeting.

Nakagawa indicated in Hakodate that he believes the prime minister could well dissolve the House of Representatives next week for a snap general election, but warned against it, saying, ''The dissolution at a time when the Cabinet's support rate has been declining is a big no-no.''

Aso told a press conference Thursday that the dissolution of the lower house will come ''in the not-so-distant future.''

Nakagawa criticized the prime minister's argument that Japan needs to raise the consumption tax from the current 5 percent to cover the nation's ballooning social security costs, saying the party should ''settle the (tax hike) issue in a presidential race.''

On the timing of the general election, LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda said earlier in the day it would be difficult for Aso to dissolve the lower house and give up on the passage of high-profile bills, including one to revise the Organ Transplant Law and another to enable Japan to inspect North Korean cargo on the high seas.

''We are sticking with the plan to pass the bills,'' Hosoda said at a news conference, adding Aso has the right to decide when to dissolve the lower house.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 29, 2009
Words:452
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