• Kyodo


Mayors and governors questioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s dissolution of the House of Representatives on Friday, noting that the move will hamper the government’s ability to address other urgent issues, such as the need to prop up regional economies and rebuild disaster-hit areas.

“Now is not the time to dissolve the Lower House,” said second-term Aomori Mayor Hiroshi Shikanai, who won re-election as an independent. “We’re faced with issues that require cooperation between the central and local governments, such as measures to boost regional economies and fight population decline, but the election will create a vacuum.”

Abe has called an election for Dec. 14 to seek a national assessment of “Abenomics,” his economic policy mix of radical monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and vows of structural reform. Many feel the policies’ effects aren’t trickling down to mainstream Japanese.

“Regional revitalization is a big issue. Abenomics has failed to reach regional economies and there need to be bold measures to help small businesses and the agriculture industry,” Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, an independent, said at a press conference.

Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso, another independent, said in a statement that “It’s unfortunate that the general election has to happen in the middle of our Lower House members’ (efforts) to work together to rebuild Iwate,” which took heavy damage from the massive offshore earthquake that struck in March 2011.

“I’m worried there will be a hold-up in policy,” said Hiroshi Kameyama, the independent mayor of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami spawned by the quake. “Reconstruction efforts in disaster-struck areas are reaching a crucial stage. I hope the government will get ready quickly so that reconstruction doesn’t fall behind.”

Some questioned the need for an election when lawmakers have only served half of their four-year terms.

“It isn’t clear what the central issue is. I wonder if there was a need to dissolve the Lower House,” said Saga Mayor Toshiyuki Hideshima.

Abe has said he will use the election to seek public approval for his economic policies as well as to postpone the second stage of the consumption tax hike until April 2017. But many believe it is aimed at taking advantage of the disorder in the opposition camp to solidify his Liberal Democratic Party’s grip on the Diet before more uncomfortable issues grab the political spotlight next year.

“The dissolution was meant to serve the LDP. I doubt whether it is necessary to spend over ¥60 billion on an election at the end of the year,” said Gov. Heita Kawakatsu of Shizuoka Prefecture.

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