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BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The rebellion in the LDP was seen by many as the best hope for reform"
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The BBC's Judith Moloney
"Mori is unlikely to stay in power"
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Monday, 20 November, 2000, 18:22 GMT
Rebels in Mori's party back down
Koichi Kato
Kato said he would abstain from the vote
The rebel group in Japan's ruling party has said it will not take part in the vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's government.

The move makes it likely that the motion will be defeated in the vote and the government will survive.

The opposition has indicated that the vote, originally set for Monday, will be postponed until later on Tuesday.

PM Mori
Mori's rating has slipped below 20%
Earlier, the reformist rebel group in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - led by the party's former secretary-general Koichi Kato - had said they would vote with the opposition unless Mr Mori resigned.

But a last-minute compromise deal was reached between the two sides shortly before the vote. The results are expected at 2330 (1430 GMT).

Japanese media reported that Mr Kato had indicated he would be absent from parliament during the vote.

Mr Kato, who has said he wants to be Japan's new leader, says the current government is driving Japan to terminal economic decline, and has called for more transparency.

Change

LDP party officials had no immediate comment about his decision to abstain.

Earlier, the LDP hierarchy had ordered the rebels to resign from the party, but most refused to do so, saying they wanted change from within.

With Mr Mori's ratings in the polls falling below 20% and fears the party could split up, this is the worst crisis to hit the LDP in nearly a decade.

Gaffes

Mr Kato is calling for an end to big government spending programmes that have given Japan the highest levels of public debt in the developed world.

Mr Mori has also been weakened by a series of government scandals and verbal gaffes.

If he loses the motion, he will have to step down or call a general election within 10 days.

But the BBC correspondent in Tokyo, Charles Scanlon, says Mr Mori is unlikely to last long in office, even if the motion is defeated.

Split

The LDP is facing a damaging split at a time when its support base in the country is shrinking, and when many Japanese are clamouring for change.

A defeat for the government could lead to the break up of the party and a broad realignment of political forces.

Mr Kato has launched his challenge to the leadership in a series of television interviews, which represents a break with the country's secretive political tradition.

Our correspondent says Mr Kato has generated a good deal of public enthusiasm with his calls for political and economic reform, but that he has also infuriated his rivals in the ruling camp.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's economic malaise
20 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori's ambitious rival
20 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori: The gaffe-prone leader
17 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan PM faces resignation call
27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
New blow for Japanese Government
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