Elections for both chambers of the Diet should be held together in 2013, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday, denying he intends to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election anytime soon.
Speculation has been mounting among the ruling bloc and opposition lawmakers that the unpopular leader, who heads the Democratic Party of Japan, may call a Lower House election and seek a voter mandate for his proposed policy shift to curb use of nuclear power.
But holding a major election while the nation is still trying to recover from the March 11 quake and tsunami would draw public outrage, particularly among survivors in the disaster-hit areas.
“What we must first do is restore and reconstruct the disaster area and resolve the nuclear plant accident,” Kan told the Lower House committee on reconstruction of the disaster zone.
“I think it is fine to hold a double election (in 2013). I don’t think (the opposition camp’s pressure) for me to dissolve the Lower House reflects public sentiment.”
The next Upper House election must be held in July 2013. The prime minister, however, has the authority to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election at any time. If not, the current Lower House members, who were elected in August 2009, would face re-election no later than August 2013.
But on Tuesday, opposition lawmakers slammed Kan’s comment, saying someone who has already expressed his intention to step down in the near future should not be commenting on the timing of the next general election.
“You can’t trust the words of a prime minister who has expressed his intention to resign, even if he makes comments about dissolving the (lower) chamber in two years,” New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said.
Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said his party may consider submitting a nonbinding censure motion in the Upper House.
“I think it is the responsibility of the ruling (DPJ) to have Prime Minister Kan step down as soon as possible and choose a new leader,” Ishihara said.
Kan staying in power “is damaging the nation’s interests and if the (DPJ) doesn’t (make Kan step down), we have to do something.”