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The Japanese prime minister, Taro Aso, today dissolved parliament and called a general election for 30 August that could see his party cast out of power for only the second time in almost 55 years.
Racked with infighting and policy confusion during Aso's 10 months in charge, the Liberal Democratic party (LDP) trails the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in opinion polls by what many believe is an insurmountable margin.
Aso, the manga-addicted scion of a wealthy political dynasty, has presided over one of the LDP's most miserable periods in power since he took office last September.
He has managed to insult teachers, the elderly and Alzheimer's sufferers with ill-judged comments, at one point likening the opposition to the Nazis. His cabinet has been dogged by scandal, including the resignation in February of his finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, after he turned up drunk at a G8 press conference in Italy.
A poll in yesterday's Mainichi newspaper put support for the DPJ at 56%, with 23% backing the LDP. At a meagre 11%, support for Aso trailed well behind that for the DPJ's leader, Yukio Hatoyama, on 28%.
Though his party's policies are short on detail, Hatoyama has struck a chord with disaffected voters with promises to take on the reform-resistant bureaucracy, lower taxes and set aside cash for families, the sick and the elderly.