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Friday, Nov. 16, 2012
A politically expedient election
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolves the Lower House today for a Lower House election Dec. 16, which will coincide with a Tokyo gubernatorial election. Regrettably, the Lower House election will be held while the vote value between depopulated rural areas and urban areas is unequal to the point of raising a constitutional issue, due to partisan calculations by Mr. Noda, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the two opposition parties agreed to enact a bill to rectify the vote-value disparity by abolishing five single-seat constituencies. But it will take several months to implement this reapportionment. As a result, the possibility cannot be ruled out that the Supreme Court could nullify the results of the coming Lower House election.
The DPJ has stuck to the idea of reducing the number of Lower House members elected under proportional representation. On Thursday, Mr. Noda told the Diet that if the LDP and Komeito agree to pass a bill to cut the number of Lower House seats in next year's Diet session, he would dissolve the Diet on Friday. He also proposed cutting the salaries of Diet members by 20 percent until the number of seats is cut. The LDP and Komeito accepted Mr. Noda's call. The interests of Mr. Noda, the LDP and Komeito coincided. The LDP and Komeito want an early Lower House election because they hope to win and seize power since the approval rating of the Noda Cabinet is less than 20 percent.
Mr. Noda wants to hold a Lower House election before the so-called third-pole parties make sufficient preparations for the election. By holding the election before yearend, he can also prevent, thanks to a legal provision, public subsidies for political parties from going to the People's Life First party headed by former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, which split from the DPJ.
A Lower House election should have been held shortly after the government committed to raising the consumption tax rate, since the tax hike was not in the DPJ's election manifesto. Instead, it is being held after the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito enacted the tax hike bill. Holding a Lower House election at this time could wreck the economy because the Diet will be unable to pass a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012 in time to help underpin the economy. Compilation of the fiscal 2013 budget also will be delayed.
Voters need to scrutinize each party's stance on key issues such as taxes, social welfare reform, energy policy including nuclear power policy and diplomacy to determine which party's policies will help stabilize their lives. Any move to change the war-renouncing Constitution by taking advantage of this confused state of affairs in politics should not be allowed.