Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 17:08 UK

Taro Aso announces Japan PM bid

Taro Aso
Taro Aso is widely viewed as the main contender for Japanese prime minister

Japan's former foreign minister Taro Aso has formally announced his bid to succeed Yasuo Fukuda as prime minister.

Mr Fukuda announced his resignation on Monday, blaming obstruction from the opposition, which controls the upper house of parliament.

Mr Aso, a staunch conservative, is seen as the front-runner for the job.

He remains popular with the electorate, even as the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sees its polling numbers dwindle.

The party is bearing the brunt of a faltering economy and perceived policy blunders, including the loss of millions of pension records.

The LDP's popularity has also been eroded by almost five decades of continuous rule.

Some younger lawmakers say 67-year-old Mr Aso, who is seen as a hawkish traditionalist, is the wrong man to revive the party's fortunes as it faces a general election next year.

But a lively contest for the leadership could play in his favour, analysts suggest.

The LDP has a reputation for deals reached behind closed doors among the leaders of its many factions, says Andre Vornic, a BBC Asia analyst.

Right-wing views

I must make an appeal... to work together to revive the economy and dispel the concerns that people in this country have
Taro Aso

Among Mr Aso's challengers is Yuriko Koike, a former defence minister and the first woman to bid for the post of prime minister.

But she has indicated that she is finding it hard to persuade enough MPs to back her candidacy.

The party election to choose the next prime minister is expected later this month.

Mr Aso has advocated increased public spending to stave off recession.

The economy ground to a halt in the last two quarters, ending a period of gradual recovery from the crisis of the 1980s.

"The mission given to me is very significant," Mr Aso said.

"I must make an appeal... for us to work together to revive the economy and dispel the concerns that people in this country have."

But his expected election has raised concerns that Japan's recent rapprochement with China may be reversed.

Mr Aso has in the past visited the shrine at Yasukuni, where a number of Japanese war criminals are buried, and is known for his right-wing views.

Two years ago he attracted criticism for praising Japan as "one country, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race".

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