Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 07:50 UK

Japanese lawmaker in 'Nazi' gaffe

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Taro Aso, pictured on 1 August 2008
Mr Aso was promoted last week to the senior ruling party position

In Japan the man tipped to be the country's next prime minister has offended the main opposition party by apparently likening them to the Nazis.

Taro Aso, the secretary-general of the ruling party, made the comments in a meeting with his opposition counterpart in parliament.

The opposition say that his comments were "unforgivable", but there is some dispute over exactly what Mr Aso said.

He was appointed to the Liberal Democratic Party's key post last week.

Controversial remarks

Mr Aso was holding talks with the opposition when one of their MPs declared that the electorate was shifting its support away from the governing party.

Newspapers here say that irritated Mr Aso, who replied that when people moved away from the party of government, regimes like the Nazis had come to power.

The opposition Democrats were angered by the comparison, saying they feared it could give the impression that if they took office they would embark on oppressive policies.

Mr Aso later told reporters he did not mean to liken them to Nazis.

He was trying to argue that the Democrats' efforts to block the passage of new laws could damage the reputation of politicians and lead to the emergence of forces like the Nazis.

It is not the first time the outspoken politician has made remarks that some consider offensive.

Seven years ago he said Japan should become the kind of country where "rich Jews" would want to live. More recently he made jokes about people with Alzheimer's disease.

But he is also one of Japan's most popular politicians.

The polls suggest one in four Japanese would like him to be prime minister, making him four times more popular than the man in charge at the moment.

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