JAPANESE Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, in office for just three scandal-plagued months, sidestepped demands he should quit yesterday but indicated he might call an election to restore confidence in his government.
As opposition parties mounted an offensive to disgrace the prime minister, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) announced it will soon begin drafting legislation to clean up politics.
Mr. Miyazawa and the ruling party face weeks of attack in parliament following the arrest of former LDP minister Fumio Abe on charges of taking bribes from the Kyowa Company and as rumors surface about a larger political bribery scandal.
Miyazawa indicated for the first time yesterday that he was considering a decision to call a general election by July in order to restore confidence in the ruling party.
While a lower-house election need not be held for two years, a growing number of LDP legislators are beginning to favor a double election - in which the ruling party always fares well.
"There are no legal limits on the dissolution [of both houses of parliament] even with the current imbalance [in electoral votes]," the prime minister told members of parliament.
Debate over scandals, including the 1988-89 Recruit stock-peddling scam involving Miyazawa himself, could disrupt passage of the 1992-93 budget bill before the April 1 deadline and prompt the ruling Liberal Democrats to force the prime minister out of office.
In a speech on Jan. 24, Miyazawa apologized for the arrest of Mr. Abe, who until December served as secretary general of the Miyazawa faction within the LDP, on suspicion of taking bribes from Kyowa, a now-bankrupt land developer.
The leader of the Japan Communist Party, Mitsuhiro Kaneko, warned the prime minister yesterday that he would have to assume "final responsibility" for the scandals.