( AFP ) - Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda may dissolve the lower house of parliament and call a snap election if the opposition passes a censure motion against him, a ruling party leader said Sunday.
"If a censure motion is passed, Prime Minister Fukuda may make a crucial decision," Bummei Ibuki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said in a television panel discussion.
"That will be one of his options as a matter of course," he added on the public network NHK.
Ibuki was referring to the possibility of an early general election to break the impasse in parliament over a LDP-backed bill aimed at resuming a Japanese naval refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan.
The LDP, with the help of junior coalition partner Buddhist-backed New Komeito, can force the bill through as they occupy about 70 percent of the 480-seat House of Representatives, the lower house.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which is against the mission, has said that if the LDP does that, it might pass a censure motion against Fukuda for "breaching the will of the people."
"We will decide whether or not we will present the censure motion to the upper house after assessing which view the people consider right -- our view or the view of the government and the ruling party," DJP secretary general Yukio Hatoyama said in the same TV programme.
But he admitted that his party's preparations for a possible early election, which requires enormous resources, "have not been completed."
"We are not getting cold feet at all. We will stand up to it," Hatoyama said.
The next election for the lower house is due by September 2009 at the latest.
New Komeito, backed by Japan's biggest lay Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai, has been cautious on an early general election after it suffered a setback in the July upper house poll.
"We must weigh people's livelihood and national interests when we talk about a lower house election," New Komeito secretary general Kazuo Kitagawa told the programme.
"The utmost responsibility of the government and the ruling party is to enact and implement the national budget," he said.