Last updated at 16:48 BST, Monday, 13 July 2009

Japan calls for August election

Summary

13 July 2009

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso is expected to call a general election after suffering a major defeat in local polls in Tokyo. The Prime Minister has been suffering from dismal approval ratings and open rebellion in his party.

Reporter:
Roland Buerk

Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso

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Report

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso appears to be jumping before he's pushed. According to his office he's agreed with his Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner that a general election will take place on the 30th of August. Mr Aso has been facing open rebellion from opponents within his party, who prefer to oust him and face the electorate under a new leader at a later date.

On Sunday the governing coalition suffered a major defeat in elections for Tokyo's Metropolitan Assembly. The local poll was widely seen as a test of national opinion. Japan has been racked by a steep recession. The Prime Minister's gaffes and apparent indecision have left him with approval ratings hovering around 20%.

If the opposition Democratic Party of Japan can take power in a general election it would be a major watershed for the country. Mr Aso's Liberal Democratic Party has governed for almost all of the past half-century. But the opposition is facing its own problems. Its leader, Yukio Hatoyama, recently had to apologise after it emerged some people named as donors were actually dead.

Roland Buerk, BBC News, Tokyo

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Vocabulary

jumping before he's pushed

leaving his job before other people force him to leave

coalition

union of different political parties for a particular purpose (here, to rule Japan)

facing open rebellion

dealing with people saying clearly and openly that they don't agree with you

oust him and face the electorate

force someone to stop doing something (here, force Aso to stop being the Prime Minister and have a general election)

a test of national opinion

a way of finding out what people in the whole country think about something

racked by a steep recession

very badly affected by a severe economic depression

gaffes

remarks that are social mistakes and not considered polite

hovering

staying at or near a particular level

watershed

an event which is important because it represents a big change in how people think about something (here, the election will change how Japanese people think about which party will rule Japan)

donors

people who give money to an organisation (here, to the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan)

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