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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012
Closer to Lower House dissolution
The political situation appears to be moving out of deadlock. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reportedly has made up his mind to dissolve the Lower House for a December general election as two of the three conditions that he set for dissolving the Lower House are likely to be met.
The No. 1 opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito have agreed with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to cooperate in enacting a bill to float bonds to cover some 40 percent of the fiscal 2012 budget. The two opposition parties even agreed to revise the bill so that the government could float bonds for budgets through fiscal 2015. Both also will start talks for selecting members of a "national conference" to discuss social welfare reform.
As for the third condition — enactment of a bill to reduce the disparity in vote value between depopulated rural areas and densely populated urban areas in a Lower House election — the DPJ and the two opposition parties have yet to reach an agreement. The DPJ should make a concession to the LDP and Komeito.
An agreement on reducing vote-value disparity is necessary to prevent a situation in which the Supreme Court could declare the results of a Lower House election null and void.
The LDP and Komeito call for abolishing five single-seat constituencies and merging them with other constituencies. In addition to this step, the DPJ calls for reducing the number of seats from proportional representation. Although the LDP is likely to accept the DPJ's idea, other parties may oppose it.
With more than three years having passed since the DPJ came to power, there is great disappointment among the public concerning the DPJ government's performance, including its failure to achieve many of main goals of the DPJ's election manifesto. The next Lower House election will be very important because its results may end the DPJ government and bring in a new government.
Political parties must make clear their stances on important policy issues so that voters can make intelligent decisions — instead of on the basis of other factors such as personal connections with candidates or active supporters of candidates.
The next Lower House election may not come as soon as some politicians hope, though, as there is a strong voice within the DPJ opposing an early dissolution of the Lower House because of the fear that the party may be beaten badly. Still, each party needs to come up with concrete policy ideas for dealing with important issues faced by Japan — such as the consumption tax hike, the tax system in general, social welfare reform including for pension and medical and nursing care services, energy and nuclear policies, and the Transpacific Partnership free-trade zone.