Senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are shunning the prime minister's post following party elder Masayoshi Ito's refusal to assume the office, major Japanese newspapers reported Monday.

Japan's worst political crisis since World War II peaked April 25 when Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, who had served 18 months, announced he would resign over a bribery scandal that has tainted many senior government officials.Ito, 75, an independent-minded former foreign minister, emerged as the party's sole choice to succeed Takeshita because he was the only major LDP elder unsullied by the scandal.