Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso has apologised to legislators of his ruling party, after dissolving parliament to hold an early election for 30 August.
Mr Aso apologised for a series of defeats his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has suffered in local elections, including in the key Tokyo municipality, the BBC reports.
Opinion polls suggest the 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.
''Although we received lots of support from party members and supporters in a series of local elections, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, we unfortunately failed to achieve our initial targets,'' Mr Aso told LDP legislators in a televised speech. 'I apologise for that once again.''
On Tuesday morning, his cabinet gave its formal backing to Mr Aso's plan to dissolve parliament and hold a general election.
Japan is in a deep recession and the BBC reports at times Mr Aso has appeared indecisive.
Last week, he 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.
Mr Aso's position had already been weakened when the LDP lost control of Tokyo city council in elections on 12 July.