Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, immediately after fending off a censure vote submitted by the opposition in the Upper House, was hit with a no-confidence motion in the lower chamber Wednesday over his controversial remark that Japan is a “divine nation centered on the Emperor.”
Mori is expected to ignore the no-confidence vote and dissolve the Lower House on Friday, paving the way for a general election on June 25.
The censure motion was voted down in the Upper House plenary session, by a 134-to-108 vote, because the ruling bloc — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and New Conservative Party — voted against it. The opposition parties then submitted the no-confidence motion against the embattled prime minister to the Lower House.
Although it is unlikely that the opposition will be able to force the prime minister to step down, their moves could deal a substantial blow to Mori and the LDP in the upcoming Lower House elections.
A series of recent opinion polls have already shown sharp declines in public confidence in his Cabinet.
“I must accept it as criticism,” Mori said about the censure move as he spoke to reporters following Wednesday’s Upper House session. “But at the same time, I appreciate that it was voted down by the three ruling parties.”
Explaining the reason for submitting the resolution, Shoji Motooka, of the Democratic Party of Japan, said the comment Mori made on May 15 is incompatible with the Constitution and that Mori lacks the qualifications and character to be prime minister.
Motooka also claimed the legitimacy of Mori’s administration is in question because the way Mori assumed the prime ministership after his predecessor, the late Keizo Obuchi, fell into a coma remains unclear.
The resolution was jointly submitted Tuesday by the DPJ, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. Another opposition force, the Liberal Party, did not join in the submission of the motion but supported it.
On Friday, Mori spoke at a specially arranged news conference and apologized for the second time for having caused “misunderstanding” among the public with his remark. He refused to retract the comment, however.
Following the Upper House rejection of the resolution Wednesday, the four opposition parties continued efforts to oust the prime minister by submitting the no-confidence motion to the Lower House.
The motion to call for the Cabinet’s resignation was handed to Lower House Speaker Soichiro Ito shortly before noon. It was signed by senior members of the four opposition parties, including DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama.
But the motion would not be put to a vote because Mori is expected to dissolve the Lower House on Friday without dealing with it.
“Prime Minister Mori failed to provide sufficient explanations (at the Friday briefing) and he should have explained it through Diet deliberations, not at a press conference,” DPJ Secretary General Tsutomu Hata said. “I must say he lacks the qualifications to be a prime minister.”
With the censure and no-confidence moves, the opposition parties hope to appeal to the public and create momentum in favor of the opposition ahead of the Lower House election on June 25.