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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Prime ministers should serve four-year terms, Nakagawa says


Staff writer

The prime minister should serve a four-year term instead of the current situation in which the post sometimes seems like a revolving door, Hidenao Nakagawa, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Monday.

Under Article 67 of the Constitution, the prime minister is elected during a plenary session of both the Lower and Upper houses. Thus the head of the ruling party usually also becomes prime minister. LDP President Yasuo Fukuda currently fills that bill.

There is no term limit, but the LDP presidency is for three years and the incumbent can only be re-elected twice. The term of a Lower House lawmaker is four years, with the chance for multiple re-election.

At a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Nakagawa said that while Japan has had 10 prime ministers over the last 15 years, there have only been four in the United Kingdom, including current incumbent Gordon Brown, since 1979.

"Can (prime ministers) conduct politics and manage policies that benefit the Japanese public in this harsh world (in such a short time)?"

Nakagawa thus urged that the prime minister hold the office for the full four-year term of a Lower House lawmaker.

Prime ministers have the power to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election at any time, and have to run for their old seat. Like Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, a prime minister can also step down without calling an election and effectively be replaced by the next winner of the ruling party presidency.

An LDP heavyweight who also served as chief Cabinet secretary in 2000, Nakagawa has been described in the media as a possible future LDP president and prime minister if Fukuda were to bow out.

But asked if he wants to be prime minister, Nakagawa brushed aside the question and only said, "There is no one else but Fukuda at the moment."



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The Japan Times

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