DPJ unseated by LDP landslide. Shinzo Abe new Prime Minister
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday that he will dissolve the Diet on Friday and call a general election on Dec 16.
Noda’s pledge, made after a heated parliamentary exchange with Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe, drew protests from some lawmakers within his own party who are not keen to face a vote at a time when the economy is ailing and public approval ratings for Noda’s cabinet have fallen below 20%.
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) deputy party secretary general Jun Azumi told broadcaster NHK that the country would be going to the polls on Dec 16.
“We will quickly draft our campaign platform, as the official campaign will start on Dec 4,” Azumi said, referring to the start of a 12-day period that will come ahead of polling day.
Azumi’s confirmation came after a showdown in the Diet between Noda and Abe in which Noda said he would dissolve the house on Friday if he got pledges on electoral reform.
Abe, a former prime minister and recently re-elected leader of the LDP, said later in the day: “I will fully cooperate with Prime Minister Noda’s proposal.”
LDP secretary general Shigeru Ishiba told reporters that senior party officials “had decided to cooperate, taking seriously the prime minister’s comment”, Jiji Press said.
A promise on electoral reform was one of the conditions Noda has publicly set in order to call an election.
The passage of legislation that will allow the government to borrow more money and pay bills that fall due this financial year was another.
Agreement on that issue was reached Tuesday.
Azumi told NHK that Noda had put country before party in working out the timing of the ballot.
“It is not a schedule that benefits our party. But the prime minister made his decision, thinking of the national interest first,” he said.
“There was tense opposition in our party against parliamentary dissolution. We must be strong. Unless we stay strong, changes of the government cannot happen in the future.”
Opinion polls in recent months have made dismal reading for Noda, with public support leeching away from his fragmenting party.
The DPJ came to power in 2009 on a wave of optimism, sweeping the long-ruling LDP aside, but has suffered in office from policy flip-flops and weak leadership.
The party is thought likely to come off badly in an election, with voters angry about Noda’s pet legislative achievement: the doubling of sales tax over the next few years.
But the LDP, a largely conservative party that nonetheless has a diverse parliamentary membership, has been unable to capitalise on the DPJ’s unpopularity.
Most observers say the signs point to an election without a clear result and say a field of recently-sprouted smaller parties is likely to lead to a messy coalition.