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Friday, June 27, 2003

Ruling parties threaten Lower House dissolution


Staff writer

The House of Representatives could be dissolved at the end of July if opposition parties boycott and disrupt Diet proceedings on a bill that would allow Self-Defense Forces personnel to be sent to Iraq, top ruling party executives warned Thursday.

The secretaries general of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party also confirmed that the Iraq bill and another that would extend the duration of an SDF mission in support of U.S.-led operations near Afghanistan must be enacted during the current Diet session, which ends July 28.

Political parties are waging a tug-of-war over the timing of the dissolution of the Lower House as they gear up for the next general election, which must be held by next June.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has the exclusive power to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election. But when asked last week by reporters about the timing of such a move, he said he was undecided.

New Komeito leaders have persistently argued that the next general election of the House of Representatives should not be held next summer, when a regular triennial House of Councilors poll is slated, because that would make it likely that elections for both Diet chambers would be held simultaneously.

New Komeito sources said they want to avoid two major elections taking place at one time because it would split the campaign power of Soka Gakkai, the nation's largest lay Buddhist organization and the party's key backer.

They say that in a dual election, Soka Gakkai would have few resources left to support the campaigns of candidates in the LDP and NCP -- a key factor for New Komeito to maintain its clout within the triumvirate.

On the other hand, a dual election is considered a more preferable option for the LDP, since the party had scored landslide victories in both postwar dual elections held to date -- in 1980 and 1986.

Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP's Upper House caucus, is reportedly hoping for a dual election because he sees it as a good chance for the party to regain an upper chamber majority, which it lost in 1989.

If either of the pending government bills has to be carried over to an extraordinary Diet session, which would probably be convened this fall, that would leave the political schedule too tight for a general election this year -- making it more likely that the Lower House poll would be held next year, possibly simultaneously with the Upper House election.



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