Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso has publicly apologised for what he called his failures and for his ruling party's string of local election losses.Not only the fourth PM, but honestly a bit of a sacrificial lamb. He has a history of public comments that have been...poorly received, shall we say...among Japan's neighbors. He has never been the biggest mover-and-shaker within the LDP, and hasn't held the types of positions that are usually synonymous with being a power-broker in the party. He wasn't expected to do well, and doesn't appear to have done much to defy those expectations. The election is the DPJ's to lose.
He spoke hours after dissolving parliament ahead of an early general election scheduled for 30 August.
Opinion polls suggest the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could lose heavily to the opposition Democratic Party (DPJ) in the election.
A DPJ victory would end five decades of almost uninterrupted rule by the LDP.
'"My shortcomings caused mistrust from the public and I apologise from my heart for this," Mr Aso said to his party's legislators in a televised speech.
"I reflect humbly on this situation and will fulfil my responsibilities while keeping in mind the people who support the LDP."
He also apologised for a series of LDP defeats in local elections. It was after losing control of the Tokyo assembly two weeks ago that Mr Aso said he was calling an election for 30 August.
Earlier on Tuesday, the cabinet gave its formal backing to Mr Aso's plan to dissolve parliament.
Japan is in a deep recession and correspondents say that at times the prime minister has appeared indecisive.
Last week, Mr Aso survived a no-confidence motion put forward by the opposition in the lower house. But the upper house, which is dominated by the opposition, passed a similar motion.
LDP rebels tried unsuccessfully to remove him before he could dissolve parliament, believing he was leading them to a historic defeat.
Opinion polls published by the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers on Monday suggested that support for Mr Aso had continued to decline since previous surveys last month.
They showed him trailing Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama.
Correspondents say the Democratic Party favours more independence from the US, a greater Japanese contribution to peacekeeping missions and a smaller role for government.
Mr Aso is the fourth prime minister since the party won the last election to the lower house of parliament in 2005.
And assuming they don't, we could be in for a very, very interesting time in Japan.