Foreign Minister Kabun Muto came up with a new idea to help the beleaguered Liberal Democratic Party retain its 38-year grasp on government in Japan.
Recalling that the death of Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira during a 1980 election campaign spurred an outpouring of sympathy votes that swept the Liberal Democrats to an unexpected landslide victory, Muto said Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's death could rescue the ruling conservative party's fortunes in a July 18 election. Muto added that Miyazawa is in excellent health, so such an event is unlikely.
The remark, condemned by commentators as being in poor taste, was nonetheless the first statement from a leader of the ruling party that virtually conceded defeat in the elections, which were called Friday after Miyazawa lost a no-confidence vote.
Opponents, including some rebel Liberal Democrats, accused the prime minister of breaking promises to pursue political reform.
Muto said the Liberal Democrats, if defeated, would seek to form a coalition government with the Japan New Party, a conservative force established last year.