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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

Fukuda again rejects calling early election

Staff writer

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda reiterated on Tuesday his reluctance to dissolve the Lower House for a snap general election before the Group of Eight summit this July in Hokkaido.

"There will be a dissolution (of the Lower House) at some point, but the question is when," Fukuda told a news conference marking the official close of the 128-day extraordinary session of the Diet.

"I think (I) must choose a time when (the Lower House dissolution) would not affect the economy or the lives of people," he said.

The opposition camp led by the Democratic Party of Japan is aiming to corner Fukuda into dissolving the lower chamber as early as the spring — around when the government's fiscal 2008 budget and related bills must be enacted. But Fukuda has repeatedly brushed off the possibility of holding an election then, citing upcoming major diplomatic events including the G8 summit and the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development scheduled for May.

The current four-year term of Lower House members runs through September 2009, but it has been widely speculated that there will be a general election sometime this year.

Looking back on the extraordinary Diet session, which was atypically extended twice, Fukuda said the ruling coalition of his Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito groped their way through the abnormal situation of a divided Diet.

The ruling bloc, which has a commanding majority in the Lower House, lost control of the Upper House to the opposition camp in the election last July.

Fukuda said he was "honestly happy" that the ruling bloc managed last week to enact the law enabling resumption of logistic support for the antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, adding that a failure to do so would have hurt Japan's diplomatic interests.

"It would not have had a good influence on diplomacy if the Japanese government had failed to carry out its intentions because of the Diet and political situation," Fukuda said.

To get the law approved, the ruling bloc had to override its Upper House rejection with a two-thirds majority vote in the Lower House — resorting to a provision in the Constitution that had not been used in more than half a century.

The two-thirds vote "is something that has been rarely used and as a rule, (I) don't think it should be used frequently," Fukuda said.

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The Japan Times

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