Allies leave election date in Mori’s hands

June 25 call anticipated in early May

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is likely to decide in early May to hold the next general election on June 25 after his two coalition allies said Wednesday they will leave the poll’s timing to him, political sources said.

Mori will announce shortly after Golden Week that the House of Representatives will be dissolved June 2 for June 25 elections, they said.

The coalition partners of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party told Mori on Wednesday they will leave the decision on when to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election in his hands.

New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki and Chikage Ogi, head of the New Conservative Party, delivered their decision to Mori, who is also LDP president, during a 30-minute meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Kanzaki said that he and Ogi have entrusted the matter to Mori, adding that the prime minister has the exclusive right to decide on the matter.

Kanzaki also suggested that he personally believes the election will be held June 25.

Mori did not express an opinion on the timing of the election during their meeting, Kanzaki said.

Ogi said the three leaders will probably meet again to finalize the day’s talks. Mori refused to comment to reporters after the meeting.

Last week, Mori indicated that economic conditions will be a key factor in determining whether elections will be held in June, as is widely speculated.

Kato wants a majority

NEW YORK (Kyodo) The Liberal Democratic Party should aim to capture at least a simple majority of House of Representatives seats in the upcoming general election, former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato said Wednesday.

Kato, who is visiting the United States to attend an international forum, told reporters accompanying him that senior LDP members should set a goal of adding to the party’s current 268 seats in the 500-member lower house.

At stake in the next general election are 480 seats, as 20 of the current 200 proportional representation seats will be eliminated; after the election, a simple majority will be 241.

Kato, an LDP faction leader who unsuccessfully ran for the party’s presidency last September, said he will support Mori as long as the prime minister remains determined to promote reforms of Japan’s economic structure.

“To bring the Japanese economy back to a true recovery path, structural reform is unavoidable,” Kato said. “The Japanese economy will have no future unless we completely shift economic policy after the election.”

Kato, a strong advocate of structural reform, criticized the fiscal spending stimuli of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, which were paid for through the issuance of a huge amount of bonds. He has been calling for fiscal rehabilitation.

Asked about main areas likely to surface in the campaign, Kato said that will depend on Mori’s political skills, but added that voters may put emphasis on evaluating the current coalition government of the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

The New Conservative Party was founded earlier this month by former members of Ichiro Ozawa’s Liberal Party, who defected when it decided to pull out of the coalition.

Kato was negative about a proposal to field some members of the New Conservative Party as LDP candidates for proportional representation seats in the Lower House, saying a merger of the two parties should be considered only after the election as the morale of LDP members nationwide would be adversely affected by such a move.

The conservatives hold 20 seats in the Lower House.