Unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's job will likely be on the line if, as many expect, his ruling party fares badly in a key local election on Sunday that is seen as a bellwether for a looming national poll, Reuters reported.
The main opposition Democratic Party has outstripped Aso's long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in opinion polls ahead of the closely watched election for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, mirroring its lead for the upcoming national election.
Ruling party moves to oust Aso, whose support among voters has sunk below 20 percent in some surveys, are set to intensify if the Democrats and other opposition parties outperform the LDP and its partner, the New Komeito, in the Tokyo assembly vote.
An election for parliament's lower house must be held by October and Aso is thought to be eyeing an early August vote, but many in the LDP oppose a move they fear would be political suicide.
Close Aso ally Yoshihide Suga, deputy chairman of the LDP's election strategy council, denied on Sunday that the party might bring forward a leadership vote and replace Aso ahead of the election.
"That is impossible," he said in a debate on Fuji TV. "Of course it will be the prime minister who calls the election."