Tipped to be Japan’s next prime minister, Taro Aso, the secretary-general of the ruling party, has offended the main opposition party by apparently likening them to the Nazis.
The comments were made in a meeting with his opposition counterpart in parliament.
Although there is some dispute over what Mr Aso exactly said, the opposition say his comments were “unforgivable”.
Last week, Mr Aso was appointed to the Liberal Democratic Party’s key post.
While Mr Aso was holding talks with the opposition, one of their MPs said that the electorate was shifting its support away from the governing party. According to Japanese newspapers, it irritated Mr Aso, who replied that regimes like the Nazis had come to power when people moved away from the party of government.
Offensive and popular
The comparison angered the opposition Democrats, who said that they feared it could give the impression that they would embark on oppressive policies if they took office.
Later, Taro Aso told reporters that he did not mean to liken them to Nazis. What he was trying to argue is that the reputation of politicians could be damaged by the Democrat’s efforts to block the passage of new laws, which could lead to the emergence of forces like the Nazis.
Before those comments, the outspoken politician has made other remarks, considered offensive by some people. Seven years ago he said Japan should become the kind of country where “rich Jews” would want to live, and more recently he made jokes about people with Alzheimer’s disease.
But Taro Aso also is one of Japan’s most popular politicians, with polls suggesting that one in four Japanese would like him to be prime minister, which makes him four times more popular than the man currently in charge.