Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 09:49 UK

Censure passed against Japan PM

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda sits in parliament on 11 June 2008
Mr Fukuda has come under fire for his handling of domestic issues

Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has suffered a fresh blow as parliament's opposition-controlled upper house has passed a censure motion against him.

The censure, which carries no legal force, is the first to pass against a prime minister under Japan's post-war constitution.

Mr Fukuda's popularity has plummeted in recent months, and the opposition want him to call a snap election.

But a spokesman for the prime minister said that this was not an option.

"The prime minister isn't thinking of dissolving parliament or resigning. We are not in such a situation," top government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

"The Fukuda cabinet's duty is to pursue its various policies," he said.

Election calls

Mr Fukuda took office in September 2007 after predecessor Shinzo Abe resigned following disastrous upper house polls that left the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in control of the chamber.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party still has a sizeable majority in the more powerful lower house.

But the DPJ has used its upper house domination to block a series of key government proposals, throwing the country into unprecedented political deadlock.

At the same time, Mr Fukuda's approval rating has fallen dramatically amid rows over lost pension records and a new compulsory health insurance scheme for the elderly.

The censure motion criticised the prime minister's handling of domestic issues and called on him to resign or call snap polls.

"What we want to do through this censure motion is to have a general election," opposition lawmaker Azuma Koshiishi told the chamber.

But Mr Fukuda is not required to call an election until September 2009.

And the lower house is set to hit back by passing a motion of confidence in the government later this week, media reports say.

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