Japan's new PM likely named Sept 25

Updated: 2007-09-18 15:23

TOKYO - Ailing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will remain in hospital indefinitely with stress-related stomach problems, but the government still has no plans to name an acting premier, an official said Tuesday.

Two Liberal Democratic Party's candidates to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, right, and Former Foreign Minister Taro Aso attend the rulling party election campaign in Tokyo, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007. [AP] 

Meanwhile, leaders of Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party agreed to hold an election in parliament September 25 to name his replacement as prime minister, although this has still to be formally approved.

Two LDP candidates are vying to replace Abe, who abruptly announced he was quitting last Wednesday.

Abe was hospitalized the following day for exhaustion and stress-related stomach problems. The stay was initially expected to last for 3-4 days, but Abe reportedly has not made any progress toward recovery.

"Of course, our hope is that he can be discharged soon, but the doctors must make the ultimate judgment on his illness," top government spokesman Kaoru Yosano told reporters Tuesday morning.

The government has no plans to appoint an acting prime minister, Yosano said. As chief Cabinet secretary, Yosano has taken over many of Abe's day-to-day responsibilities.

Yasuo Fukuda, a veteran moderate widely considered the front-runner, and the more hawkish former Foreign Minister Taro Aso are the only candidates in a September 23 race to replace Abe as chief of the ruling party.

A joint poll released Tuesday by the Sankei newspaper and broadcaster Fuji News Network said 55.9 percent of respondents favored Fukuda as new prime minister, while 28.1 percent gave Aso the nod.

No margin of error was given for the September 15-16 telephone survey of 1,000 people.

The new leader of the LDP is ensured election as prime minister because of the party's majority in the lower house of parliament.

Aso has acknowledged his underdog status, but has vowed to stay in the race.

"I must stick this out to the end, or it will not be good for the LDP, and it will not be good for Japan," Aso told reporters.

Meanwhile, the opposition DPJ agreed Tuesday morning to an LDP proposal that the election for prime minister be held in parliament on September 25, DPJ official Hidenori Nakayama said. A formal decision on the date will likely be made Thursday or Friday in the steering committees of both houses of parliament, he added.

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