Japan PM expected to dissolve parliament

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda intends to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election by the end of this year, it was revealed yesterday. The Japanese media have published much about the dissolution and the possibility of an election as early as next month. The frontpage headline of today’s Nikkei business daily read “Prime minister decides to dissolve parliament this year” and newspapers such as the Asahi Shimbun speculated as to the exact date of an election, which could be as early as December 16th or as late as January 20th, it was reported.

Noda appears to have judged that he has to fulfill a promise he made to major opposition party leaders in August that he would go “sometime soon”; he also recently said that he would make up his mind “in an appropriate manner when conditions are right”. It is thought that his decision comes as part of a deal in exchange for obtaining the support of the opposition to secure a bill to double the sales tax rate by 2015, which was one of his main campaign pledges. He is also pushing for a plan to join a vast trans-Pacific free trade deal.

It is widely believed that a re-election will not prove successful for Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan in the face of general dissillusionment with the party since they ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party three years ago. In the latest Asahi Shimbun poll released today, the approval rating for the Noda cabinet slipped to 18% while the disapproval rating rose to 64%. If he is defeated in elections, Noda, who took office just over a year ago, will become the sixth Japanese leader to leave the Prime Minister’s residence after spending roughly 12 months in office. Japan has changed leaders almost annually since Junichiro Koizumi, who led the nation for more than five years to September 2006. Many have criticised the regular changes in leader for Japan’s diminishing influence on the world stage, particularly in economic terms after it was recently overtaken by China as the world’s second largest economy.

There is still not agreement as to when the re-election might take place. Opposition leader Shinzo Abe suggested that a general election may take place on Christmas Eve of this year. However, Mr Koshiishi, the DPJ’s No. 2 man, told reporters yesterday that it would be difficult for Noda to dissolve the lower house before the end of the year. Michihiko Kano, former farm minister, last week urged the Noda government to avoid an early election. “The DPJ is now in a crisis. We should be united to carry out policies“.

Sources include: Japan Today, Japan Times

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