Prime Minister Taro Aso will be able to stay in office for now, as his ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday turned down demands by some dissident lawmakers to hold a plenary meeting to sack Aso as LDP president before next month's national election.
LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda announced in a news conference that the party will instead hold a less formal form of a meeting Tuesday morning and Aso will sum up the party's consecutive losses in the recent local elections, declare his determination over the upcoming national election and beef up the tattered party unity.
''I hear people saying, 'What has the LDP been doing?''' Hosoda said at the party's headquarters, playing up the need to strengthen the party's solidarity ahead of the Aug 30 election, in which analysts believe the LDP could well lose to the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.
In tandem with the leadership's decision, Aso is now geared up for dissolving the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon as originally planned. He is set to formalize the plan on Diet dissolution at the Cabinet meeting to be held before the scheduled forum, according to sources close to the premier.
But former Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, one of the key rebel lawmakers, was not satisfied with the leadership's decision.
''I repeatedly asked (Hosoda) to hold a formal plenary meeting, take time and engage in thorough discussions,'' Nakagawa told reporters after meeting with Hosoda.
''The LDP is for the people. In order to rejuvenate it, the president who is the top leader needs to show his determination and passion toward the national election,'' he said. ''If he cannot satisfy the party, he won't be able to satisfy the people.''
An anti-Aso group led by Nakagawa submitted Thursday to the LDP leadership signatures from what they claim is over one-third of the party's Diet members, the minimum required to seek a Joint Plenary Meeting of Party Members of Both Houses of the Diet, in which they could also call for a presidential race to replace Aso.
But Masatoshi Wakabayashi, chairman of the joint plenary meeting, who joined the news conference with Hosoda, said, ''We concluded that the signatures don't meet the one-third requirement'' with some lawmakers who are on the list denying that they ever offered their signatures and asking to have their names taken off.
On the list appeared two members of Aso's Cabinet -- Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano as well as Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba.
Both Yosano and Ishiba on Friday welcomed the party's decision to stage the meeting next Tuesday.
''Apart from the name (of the meeting), it is satisfying to take an important step,'' Yosano said at a separate press conference.
Ishiba said separately that the meeting must be ''a place to discuss what went wrong,'' apparently referring to the consecutive local election losses.
In submitting the petition, the dissidents have voiced concern that the LDP could suffer a severe setback if it campaigns for the lower house election under Aso, following significant losses in Sunday's Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly race and other local polls.
Aso on Thursday was willing to attend any gathering. ''I am willing to attend a meeting should it be set up and listen to what they have to say and tell them about my own thoughts,'' he said. ''I have no intention of running away.''© Japan Today