Lower House election likely June 18 or 25

Emperor's trip, G8 summit key factors

The government and the Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to avoid dissolving the Lower House and holding a general election between May 20 and June 1, when the Emperor will be out of the country, government and political sources said Tuesday.

The decision would effectively leave June 18 and 25, both Sundays, as the most likely dates for a general election.

Technically, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori can dissolve the chamber and call a snap election any time before the Oct. 19 expiry of incumbent Lower House members’ terms.

In the face of intensifying pressure from opposition parties, it seems that Mori has no choice but to call a snap election before the Group of Eight summit meeting in July. Opposition parties have been questioning the legitimacy of the Mori administration, which was hastily formed following the hospitalization of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi earlier this month.

“We should avoid a situation in which one of the chambers (of the Diet) is dissolved while the Emperor is on his trip,” a senior government official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Emperor and Empress are scheduled to leave for a 12-day visit to Europe on May 20.

LDP executives agree that the dissolution of the Lower House and subsequent general election should not take place during the Emperor’s absence, according to party sources.

“There has never been such a case in the past,” one senior party official said. “Although there is no legal problem (in holding an election while the Emperor is away), we should avoid it if possible.”

Mori is expected to make his final decision on the election with regard paid to diplomatic schedules up to the G8 summit.

The G8 summit will take place July 21 to 23 in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, while the G8 foreign ministers’ meeting is set for July 12 and 13 in Miyazaki. The Group of Seven nations, the G8 minus Russia, will hold a meeting of finance ministers July 8 in Fukuoka.

During an Upper House plenary session earlier Tuesday, Mori said he would not hesitate to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election should an appropriate time arise.

“I will carry it out (the call for a general election) without hesitation when I reckon the time has come to ask for the people’s judgment,” he said.

The Emperor returns June 1 from a trip to Europe, a senior government official said Tuesday.

Provided that the chamber is dissolved on June 2, the day after the Emperor is scheduled to return, the earliest possible closing date for candidacy registration would be June 6, with the voting to take place on June 18. That would leave only four days between the dissolution and the candidacy deadline, during which a series of procedures must be squeezed in.

If the general election is held on June 25, there would be more time between dissolution and the deadline for filing candidacy on June 13. Conversely, however, it would allow only a short time for forming a new Cabinet, with the G7 finance ministers’ meeting slated for July 8 in Fukuoka.

It normally takes five days from election day for winners of a general election to be confirmed, and about nine days for an extraordinary Diet session to convene.

New party name given

The 26 lawmakers who defected from the Liberal Party and formed a new party last week have decided that its English name will be “New Conservative Party,” its members announced Tuesday.

The party had been tentatively called the “Conservative Party,” which is the translation of “Hoshuto” — its Japanese name announced last week.

The party also announced its platform, which calls for a new Constitution to be drawn up “in the early part of the 21st century.”

The party consists of 20 Lower House and six Upper House members who defected from the Liberal Party, after former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi announced April 1 that his Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito were ending their alliance with the LP.

The party has entered into an alliance with the LDP led by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and New Komeito.