Mori set to dissolve Diet for elections on June 25

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is set to dissolve the Lower House today, effectively kicking off campaigning for general elections slated for June 25.

Following the formal announcement of the dissolution at a Lower House plenary session this afternoon, the prime minister will call an extraordinary Cabinet meeting to formally set the date for the elections.

Opposition parties, which submitted a no-confidence motion earlier this week over Mori’s controversial “divine nation” remarks, have been calling for a vote on the matter. Mori, however, will avoid facing the motion by dissolving the chamber at the outset of the session.

In the poll, candidates will vie for 480 seats in the powerful chamber. In February, the government reduced the number of seats in the Lower House by 20, despite a legislative boycott by opposition parties.

Although the official campaign is expected to start June 13, all parliamentary parties have commenced preparations for the upcoming elections, with policy platforms and election candidates already selected in most cases.

With the reputation of Mori’s Cabinet tainted by his recent remarks, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition allies — New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — are expected to focus on economic policies in their campaign.

They are also expected to stress the importance of making the upcoming Group of Eight summit meeting in Okinawa a success.

Opposition parties, however, are likely to highlight the prime minister’s controversial remarks in their campaign, questioning Mori’s qualifications for leadership.

Meanwhile, the LDP decided Thursday to field Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the proportional representation section of the election, despite the party’s age limit of 73 for candidates.

Miyazawa, 80, and Nakasone, 82, are among 62 candidates the party decided to field in the proportional representation section for the upcoming vote during its election committee task force meeting, LDP officials said.

Former Lower House Speaker Yoshio Sakurauchi, 88, and former Finance Minister Tatsuo Murayama, 85, were not included in the LDP’s proportional representation list despite their hopes for inclusion.

Murayama said shortly afterward that he has given up the idea of running in the general election and will retire from politics. Sakurauchi also indicated he may retire from politics.

The leadership of the LDP promised Nakasone in July 1996 that it would grant him a permanent first place on the party’s proportional representation list in the northern Kanto regional bloc in exchange for him withdrawing from the race for a single-seat constituency in Gunma Prefecture.

Later, the party decided not to field candidates aged over 73 in Lower House elections under proportional representation.

Miyazawa, also a former prime minister, has decided to concede his Hiroshima No. 7 single-seat constituency for his nephew to contest.

Of the 62 aspirants, eight each will be from the northern Kanto, Tokai and Kinki blocs, seven each from the Tohoku, Chugoku and Kyushu blocs, four each from the southern Kanto, Tokyo, Hokuriku-Shinetsu and Shikoku blocs and one from the Hokkaido bloc, the officials said.

Of the 480 Lower House seats to be contested, 300 will be in single-seat constituencies and 180 under proportional representation from 11 regional blocs.