Watanabe expects poll will be held before fall

by Kazuaki Nagata

Prime Minister Taro Aso will probably not be able to delay a general election until September, when the current term of Lower House members expires, former administrative reform minister Yoshimi Watanabe said Monday in Tokyo.

The earliest timing of the election may be sometime between March to May, after the fiscal 2009 budget is passed, Watanabe said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Otherwise, an election will probably be held around August, after the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election takes place in July, because Liberal Democratic Party partner New Komeito is insisting that the two elections do not overlap, Watanabe said.

“After all, the longer the LDP delays holding the election, the fewer seats the LDP will be able to get,” Watanabe said, and the party’s lawmakers want to hold onto their seats as long as possible.

Denouncing Aso’s policy on reform of the civil servant system, Watanabe resigned from the party last month.

Watanabe also said it is possible that his new policy group will be turned into a political party before the general election. This will depend on the public’s reaction, which has been positive, he added.

After leaving the LDP, Watanabe created the policy group with independent Lower House member Kenji Eda as well as local government leaders and people from the private sector, saying the group will create a “people’s movement” to change the current bureaucrat-led government to a government led by elected officials.

The group will hold a preparatory meeting Wednesday.