Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is considering dissolving the Lower House and calling a general election by the end of the year, Democratic Party of Japan executives said Monday.
Noda will decide on the timing while keeping an eye on cross-party discussions about whether to establish a rule that would make passing the debt-financing bill for the annual budget less of a political football and how to reform the Lower House vote-value disparity, the executives said.
Noda appears to have judged that he has to fulfill a promise he made to major opposition party leaders in August that he would go before voters “sometime soon” in exchange for obtaining the opposition camp’s support to secure passage of the consumption tax hike, his prized goal.
Many DPJ lawmakers oppose an early election because public support for the Cabinet is below 20 percent, due in part to the unpopular tax hike. This opposition is hindering Noda’s bid to dissolve the Lower House in the near term, DPJ lawmakers said.
Noda reiterated during a Lower House Budget Committee session Monday that he isn’t yet ready to made a decision. He has recently said he will make up his mind “in an appropriate manner when conditions are right.”
As one of the conditions, Noda has emphasized the need for the ruling and opposition camps to work together to pass the bill that would allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance the budget for this fiscal year through March. Swift passage of the bill is considered necessary because the Finance Ministry has warned that without it, the government will run short of funds by the end of this month.
The debt-financing bill is likely to be passed during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session, which ends Nov. 30, now that the Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, has agreed to its passage.
The LDP could also step up efforts to move forward talks with the DPJ on a bill to reform the Lower House electoral system, regarded as another condition for Noda to call a general election.
The LDP, headed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is now aiming to create an environment in which its help in securing passage of the key bills could prod Noda to dissolve the Lower House before the end of December.
Opposition support is required for Noda to secure passage of any legislation in the divided Diet, where the DPJ-led ruling bloc lacks a majority in the Upper House.
Dec. 24 election possible
The proposed general election may take place Dec. 24, opposition leader Shinzo Abe said on a Sunday TV talk show.
“An election on Christmas Eve is possible,” said Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, the top opposition force.
Abe reiterated his party’s demand that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda call the election for before the end of the year.
If the election is not held until January, work on next year’s budget would be delayed and stimulus spending would be more difficult, Abe said.
Speaking at a news conference in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba meanwhile said a Dec. 24 election wouldn’t be all that far-fetched even though elections are normally held on Sundays.