Japan's embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso plans to call a general election on August 30, a top ruling party official said on Monday, despite prospects that his long-ruling conservative party is headed for a big defeat.
The main opposition Democratic Party has its best ever chance to oust Aso's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner in the poll, ending a half-century of nearly unbroken rule by the conservative LDP.
Below are some facts about 68-year-old Aso.
* Aso has said he would put priority on spending and tax cuts to stimulate Japan's faltering economy over the next three years, a stance that could derail efforts to rein in huge public debt, already on track to hit 170 percent of GDP by March 2010.
* An outspoken nationalist, Aso wants to see Japan play a bigger global security role. In 2006, after becoming foreign minister, Aso said there was nothing wrong with discussing whether Japan, the only country to suffer an atomic bombing, should possess nuclear weapons.
* As prime minister he has not visited Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead, seen by many in Asia as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, despite having favored such visits in the past.
* Born into a wealthy family on the southern island of Kyushu, Aso has an elite political lineage. His grandfather, Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, negotiated the peace treaty ending World War Two, his father-in-law was also a prime minister, and his sister is married to a cousin of Emperor Akihito.
* A rarity among Japan's mostly staid politicians, Aso is a dapper dresser who appeals to fellow fans of "manga" comics and can work a crowd with amusing patter. He represented Japan in skeet shooting at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
* His brash manner has provoked controversy and he has come under fire for a series of policy flip-flops and gaffes. His comments have offended people from doctors and parents to the elderly and he has been ridiculed in the media for misreading kanji, the characters used in Japanese writing.
* He stirred anger in the two Koreas in 2003 for remarks seen as praising Japan's 1919-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula. But since becoming premier he has forged close ties with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak, and ties with China have been on an even keel.
* A Christian belonging to the Roman Catholic church, Aso has advocated respect for traditional Japanese values, including the Shinto-based emperor system.