Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Wednesday rejected speculation that he intends to cave to the opposition camp and dissolve the Lower House for a snap poll, in exchange for its support in passing legislation to hike the sales tax.
During an interview with media outlets at the prime minister’s office, Noda stressed that a host important issues still must be tackled before he seeks the public’s verdict on his proposed tax raise through a general election.
“I have no intention of dissolving the Lower House simply as a means of achieving a certain goal,” Noda said. “There are so many important issues left to deal with and my basic view is that I will seek the people’s judgement after resolving as many of them as possible.”
Only a prime minister has the power to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a snap election, but Noda’s hand may be forced by the opposition camp’s control of the Upper House in the divided Diet.
Opposition parties’ ability to block bills in the House of Councilors means Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan are unable to pass legislation without their cooperation.
Recent reports that Noda and Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki held a secret meeting in Tokyo have sparked much speculation that they discussed a deal under which the largest opposition force would support bills to raise the sales tax from 5 to 10 percent, in exchange for a dissolution of the Lower House and a snap election.
On Wednesday, Noda flatly denied that any such meeting took place but voiced his hopes of discussing various aspects of the envisioned tax hike with the LDP.
“It isn’t true (that I met with Tanigaki). From now on, I think it is appropriate to engage in talks through various channels to hear the LDP’s opinions and to put the government’s point of view across,” Noda said.
The interview was held to mark the first anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and also was attended by reporters from the devastated Tohoku region who updated Noda on the current situation in the disaster zones and asked how he intends to speed up lagging reconstruction work.
A reporter from The Kahoku Shimpo daily in Miyagi Prefecture pointed out that aside from Tokyo, virtually no municipalities outside Tohoku have volunteered to incinerate some of the 22.5 million tons of tsunami debris, and asked Noda if he plans to enforce a system to guarantee the even shipment of debris to local governments nationwide.
In response, Noda vowed his government would boost efforts to assure municipalities that incinerating the debris is safe as the radiation level of the refuse is around 0.01 millisieverts or less.
“There is no doubt that it is impossible for Tohoku to deal with the debris on its own,” Noda said. “We need to promote the safety of (incinerating) the debris and to ensure that we get local governments outside the disaster area to cooperate over its disposal.”