TOKYO – Japan's embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso on Sunday prepared for tough questioning in parliament over the ailing economy and upcoming polls as he returned home from the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Aso, who took office in late September and has seen his approval rating plummet since to less than 20 percent, has repeatedly rejected calls for snap polls from the opposition, which controls the upper house of parliament.
The opposition has denounced a stimulus package which the prime minister pushed through parliament last week to revive Asia's largest economy, calling it a waste of money that will not save Japan from the depths of recession.
Local media ripped Aso for his performance in Davos, during which he fumbled his keynote speech and referred to former British premier Tony Blair several times as "Tony Brown" -- an apparent mix-up with current premier Gordon Brown.
"The premier remained the same in that he lacked carefulness," the Fuji TV network said.
"Prime Minister Aso is expected to remain in a situation which does not warrant optimism in both domestic politics and foreign affairs," TV Asahi noted.
The conservative Sankei was a bit more charitable, saying on its Internet edition that Aso may simply have gotten mixed up due to the fact that he was only in Switzerland for seven hours.
On Monday, Aso -- who pledged 1.5 trillion yen (17 billion dollars) in aid to other Asian nations in Davos -- will answer question in the upper house of parliament, where the opposition's calls for snap polls are mounting.
Aso's Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition is expected to lose its majority in the lower house when Japan goes to the polls. The prime minister must call a general election by September.
The government's controversial economic stimulus package calls for giving the public two trillion yen in a bid to kickstart domestic spending, but the opposition says the coalition is trying to buy votes ahead of the polls.