National / Politics

Abe may dissolve Japan's Lower House in November for snap election

JIJI

Speculation is rising among ruling and opposition parties that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may dissolve the House of Representatives as early as November for a snap general election.

According to some ruling bloc and opposition lawmakers, Abe may decide to dissolve the Lower House by making constitutional revision a major issue in a subsequent general election if it becomes difficult to enact a bill to amend the national referendum law during the ongoing extraordinary session of the Diet, which ends on Dec. 9.

At a meeting among executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito ally, held at Abe’s official residence Wednesday night, LDP Diet affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama cited a view held by some in the opposition camp that the Lower House could be dissolved by the end of the year.

In response, Abe, also president of the LDP, said, “We’ve so far won (elections) in December,” in an apparent reference to the Lower House elections held in December 2012 and the same month of 2014, in which the ruling camp performed strongly, according to sources with access to the meeting.

This remark by Abe sent ripples through the ruling and opposition blocs.

At the current Diet session, which kicked off Oct. 4, opposition parties have rejected Abe’s call for discussions on a constitutional amendment, and it is unclear when and whether debates on amending the referendum law will start in the Constitution panels of both chambers of the Diet.

“A Lower House breakup could be possible if the opposition side continues rejecting discussions,” an LDP member says.

Some in Komeito speculate that Abe may dissolve the Lower House after the Nov. 14-15 Daijosai offering ceremony by Emperor Naruhito and set a subsequent election for Dec. 15.

The ruling bloc may be maneuvering to shake up the opposition camp by hinting at a Lower House dissolution at an early date, pundits say.

Meanwhile, some in the opposition side look ready to accept a Lower House dissolution, as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, the two largest opposition parties, and other opposition forces recently formed joint parliamentary caucuses in the two chambers.

“I want (Abe) to dissolve (the Lower House) by making the Constitution a major issue to clarify the differences” between the ruling and opposition sides over the matter, a senior CDP official said.

Another CDP executive said: “Opposition parties would unite if Abe dissolves the Lower House over a revision of (the war-renouncing) Article 9 of the Constitution. Will he remain resolved (on dissolving the chamber) under that scenario?”

Still, a Lower House dissolution will involve risks for both sides.

Some said that the LDP could lose 65 to 70 seats in the next Lower House election, considering the results of the election in July this year for the House of Councilors.

If this happens, the pro-constitutional reform camp, also including Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai, would lose its two-thirds majority in the Lower House, the minimum required level for submitting a proposal to amend the supreme law.

If the Lower House is dissolved early, opposition parties would likely face difficulty in working to unify candidates in single-seat constituencies.

Analysts cited three main options for the timing of Abe dissolving the chamber — by the end of this year, at the beginning of next year’s ordinary Diet session in January and after the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I don’t think at all that the Lower House will be dissolved by the end of this year,” an Abe Cabinet minister from the LDP said.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5