Abe tries, fails to prod Noda on poll

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe tried and failed once again Wednesday to corner Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda into promising to dissolve the Lower House by the end of the year, continuing a seemingly endless power struggle that only lawmakers appear to be interested in.

Abe, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2007, faced off with Noda in a televised Lower House plenary session in an attempt to show voters how his party is more suitable than the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to run the country.

But even before he could begin his criticism of Noda, Abe said he owed an apology for abruptly quitting as prime minister for health reasons. Despite that, the LDP re-elected him as its president in September, triggering widespread criticism of the largest opposition party.

“Ever since the day I stepped down, I have continued to think of how I could take responsibility . . . and I came to the conclusion that there is no other way than to utilize my experience as a national leader, including my failures, and devote myself to rebuilding Japan for the people,” Abe said from the podium in the Lower House chamber.

Abe went on to condemn the DPJ’s rule as “three years of lost hope,” slamming Noda for avoiding to hold a general election and trying to stay in power as long as possible.

The DPJ came to power in the 2009 poll, ousting the LDP, which, after the 2005 election initiated a revolving door of prime ministers installed in lieu of a popular vote, with Abe in the middle of them.

The LDP leader reiterated that Noda should keep the promise made in August that he would hold a Lower House general election “soon.”

Noda shrugged off Abe’s criticism and once again stated he would call an election once key legislation and agendas are cleared, including the deficit-covering bonds bill necessary to execute about 40 percent of the fiscal 2012 budget.

“I said I would seek the public’s judgment soon and I take those words seriously. . . . Once the conditions are met, I will make a firm decision,” Noda said, making it clear he has no intention of being forced by the opposition camp to dissolve the Lower House.

The prime minister and the DPJ, however, are off to a rough start in the extraordinary Diet session that kicked off Monday.

The opposition parties are keen to jump on Noda for appointing Keishu Tanaka as justice minister on Oct. 1, only to see him exit in a few weeks.

Tanaka stepped down over “health problems” after admitting to having past ties with a major yakuza syndicate and for accepting illegal donations from a company run by a foreign national.

But on Wednesday, Noda only acknowledged that he felt responsible over Tanaka’s quick resignation and nothing more.

“I am aware of the responsibility I bear over the fact that a Cabinet minister I appointed could not perform his duties. I have appointed Justice Minister (Makoto) Taki and I plan to fulfill my responsibility by making sure the Cabinet does its job as a whole,” Noda said.