Word spread quickly Tuesday through the Nagata-cho political center that Prime Minister Taro Aso will not dissolve the Lower House and call a general election until next year so he can focus on the faltering economy.
Rumors had been flying that Aso would dissolve the chamber around the end of this month and set an election for Nov. 30, but fears of a further economic downturn triggered by the international financial crisis have trumped this scenario, sources close to Aso said.
He reportedly said now is not the time to create a political vacuum and he will instead prioritize economic and financial stabilization measures.
Putting off the campaign until next year, however, may cause friction within the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito coalition because some elements in the bloc have been pushing hard for a November election, particularly Komeito members.
“There is still a wide gap between New Komeito and Aso over the (timing) of the dissolution and election,” a New Komeito executive said.
Aso is expected to meet Thursday with New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota and stand behind his decision.
In an apparent about-face, LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda, a vocal advocate for a November poll, said he will respect Aso’s decision.
“I believe it is up to the prime minister to decide after considering the current unprecedented drop in stock prices, the financial situation, and public sentiment and trends,” Hosoda said.
The Democratic Party of Japan has also been seeking a November election. The party is now expected to adopt a more confrontational posture and try to stall Diet deliberations on the ruling bloc’s agenda.
“Election issues aside, we must solemnly carry out measures that are currently necessary — we won’t pointlessly extend deliberations,” DPJ Diet affairs chief Kenji Yamaoka said. He added, however, it is now unlikely the special antiterrorism bill will be passed this week. The bill extends the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Indian Ocean mission, a key goal of Aso.