The move is widely seen as a last-ditch attempt to keep the ruling party in power after Aso's Liberal Democrats (LDP) and their coalition partner, the New Komeito Party (NKP), lost their majority Sunday in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). It is also viewed as an attempt by the prime minister to put a lid on growing demands within the LDP for a change in leadership.
According to Osamu Sakashita, a spokesman at the prime minister's office, the decision is not linked to a DPJ no-confidence motion presented in parliament last week against the prime minister and his cabinet.
At the present the DLP-NKP coalition holds 334 seats in the 480-member Diet, a number more than sufficient to defeat any motion by the opposition which for now only has public opinion polls on its side.
Analysts and political scientists are trying to vet possible scenarios should elections actually be called.
Aso’s government, set up to maintain the LDP’s 50-year-old hegemony in the country, has had to deal with a number of serious economic and social problems caused by the worldwide economic crisis.
Japan’s labour groups and business community have also accused the government of failing to adopt policies that could lead the country out of recession.