October 21, 2008 / 6:41 AM / 11 years ago

Japan PM prayers at grave fuel election fever

TOKYO (Reuters) - Prayers at his grandfather’s grave and a planned speech in a Tokyo shopping district beloved of manga-loving youth are fanning speculation that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is poised to call a snap election.

“Prayers for victory at his grandfather’s grave?” queried a headline in the Yomiuri newspaper that accompanied a cartoon showing a perspiring Aso kneeling with his hands clasped at the grave of his grandfather, former prime minister Shigeru Yoshida.

Aso, who some politicians and media say is leaning toward calling an election for November 30 to try to break a political stalemate, denied his visit to the grave had special meaning.

“I go every year,” the Yomiuri quoted him as telling reporters. “Everyone visits their relatives’ graves, don’t they?”

Aso, a Catholic, poured water on the gravestone and crosses flanking it, crossed himself and stood silently, the paper said.

The 68-year-old Aso is proud of his elite political pedigree, but the dapper premier has also cultivated an image as a “cool old dude” who shares a love of manga comics with Japanese youth.

In another sign he may be gearing up to go to the polls, Aso is scheduled to speak on Saturday in Akihabara, a Tokyo shopping district popular with Japan’s geeks famed for their devotion to video games, manga and maid cafes.

Aso also sought to show solidarity with voters on Sunday when he visited a supermarket to check out high prices, and reached out to the Internet savvy on Monday by launching a channel on a popular Japanese video sharing website Nico Nico Douga -- www.nicovideo.jp/official/asou -- where opposition Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa already has a channel.

“First his performance at the supermarket, then Nico Nico,” said one anonymous blogger commenting on the planned Akihabara appearance. “The election must be getting close.”

Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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