Japan PM to dissolve parliament

TOKYO: Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso will dissolve parliament Tuesday ahead of a general election late next month, after receiving official endorsement from his cabinet, his top aide said.

"I have decided to dissolve the lower house," Aso said at a cabinet meeting, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

"Dissolution is necessary in order for us to gain more understanding and cooperation of the Japanese people," Aso said, Kawamura told reporters.

Emperor Akihito would give his symbolic assent, and the lower house would convene at 0400 GMT for the dissolution.

Aso's cabinet would meet again to officially set the schedule for the next election.

The move came after Aso, who remains chronically unpopular according to polls and has faced open party revolt, told reporters last week of his plan to dissolve parliament this week and to hold general elections on August 30.

Aso will meet the press at 6:00 pm (0900 GMT) to discuss his decision.

The move could throw his deeply divided ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into further disarray, as it braces itself for a massive election defeat and risks handing power to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

The conservative LDP has governed Japan continuously since its foundation in 1955, except for one 10-month stretch in the early 1990s.

But the party has failed to find a lasting leader in recent years, electing three prime ministers since the popular Junichiro Koizumi stepped down in 2006.

The LDP lost to the Democratic Party in a 2007 upper house election.

Aso took office in September with a mission to revive the LDP, but his frequent gaffes, policy flip-flops and scandals by his ministers invited voter criticism, while the opposition surged in opinion polls.

The ruling party, some of whose members last week tried to unseat Aso to elect another leader to fight the election, will hold a meeting of lawmakers shortly before the parliament session to discuss Aso's decision.