A Nov. 9 general election is a near certainty as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to dissolve the House of Representatives to meet that schedule, a close aide to LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki said Thursday.

“The probability of an election Nov. 9 is 95 percent,” Akira Amari, a former labor minister, was quoted as saying at the day’s meeting of the Yamasaki-led Liberal Democratic Party faction. Yamasaki is Koizumi’s closest ally.

“The remaining 5 percent represents the possibility that Mr. Koizumi may suddenly change his mind,” participants quoted him as telling faction members, who are all anxious to know the timing of the chamber’s dissolution so they can begin unofficial campaigning.

With many LDP members unhappy with Koizumi and his handling of such issues as the economy, political observers say the prime minister is trying to retain his hold on the party by flaunting his power to dissolve the Lower House whenever he chooses.

Also Thursday, Lower House Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki summoned Yamasaki to complain about a newspaper report saying that Koizumi told LDP executives that he will dissolve the Lower House soon after the LDP presidential election planned for September if he is re-elected.

Watanuki told Yamasaki that although Article 7 of the Constitution — which says the Emperor, on the advice and with the approval of the Cabinet, can dissolve the Lower House — is widely interpreted as giving the prime minister the right to dissolve the chamber, others see it differently.

Watanuki, who is an independent because of his position as house speaker, is originally from an LDP faction led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The Hashimoto faction opposes the prime minister’s economic policies and is now trying to field a candidate to challenge Koizumi in the presidential race.

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