World News

Japan PM dismisses calls for snap election

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said on Monday addressing policy issues was his top priority, dismissing speculation that he might step down or call an early poll after hosting a G8 summit next month.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda leaves after a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Issei Kato

“I want to put priority on addressing issues rather than dissolving the lower house,” Fukuda told reporters.

Opposition parties are expected to submit an embarrassing non-binding censure motion against Fukuda in the Japanese parliament’s upper house soon, where it is likely to be adopted since the opposition controls the chamber.

The censure would be the first against a prime minister under the 1947 constitution but would not obligate him either to resign or call an election.

Fukuda said any decision to call a snap poll should not spark political turmoil.

“I would like to dissolve the lower house at a time when it does not affect our efforts to formulate and carry out policies,” he said. “The timing of resolving the lower house must not affect various things, the political situation in particular.”

No general election need be held until September 2009 and the ruling bloc is wary of an early poll given the risk of losing its two-thirds majority that now enables it to override upper house vetoes in most matters.

“What if we are to continue to have the situation we are in today after the lower house is dissolved?” he said.

Fukuda’s support ratings have dropped below 20 percent in some polls as he has struggled to cope with a divided parliament, where the opposition has taken every opportunity to delay key legislation.

That has prompted talk that the ruling party may replace its leader after he hosts a Group of Eight summit in July.

Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa has made clear he wants to force Fukuda to step down or call a snap lower house poll.

Party officials said a censure motion would be aimed at the national health insurance scheme that has outraged many elderly -- long supporters of the ruling party -- by forcing some aged 75 and over to pay more. The Democrats want to abolish the new system.