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Japanese Lower House Dissolution Imminent; Noda Honors LDP Deal

Yoshiiko Noda is paying the piper. He promised early elections in return for opposition support on taxes and is keeping his word.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 8/25/2012, 5:29 AM

Yoshihiko Noda
Yoshihiko Noda
Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has told the Liberal Democratic Party, the major opposition to the Democratic Party of Japan, that Japan will go to the polls in November. The month is appropriate because the Prime Minister can have no illusions that his party will avoid the role of the turkeys in an electoral Thanksgiving.

It is not that the Japanese public is overwhelmingly excited about the return to power of the Liberal Democratic Party, Japan's almost perennial party in power until the last elections. However, the great expectations that accompanied the change in power have been marred by disappointments, scandals and the very poor handling of the Japanese nuclear disaster.

As in the Liberal Democratic Party tailspin that preceded the elections, the Democratic Party of Japan could only supply the country with short-lived prime ministers who soon became political liabilities.

The biggest problem for the Democratic Party of Japan is that the party is totally split over the issue of tax increases.

Without a tax increase, the Japanese cupboard was bare. To overcome the opposition within his own party, Noda made a deal with the Liberal Democrats to move up the elections in exchange for LDP support for the tax. Taxes are never popular and this is particularly true when the economy is stagnant.

Another strike the DPJ has going against it is that while in opposition, it emphasized good relations with China, in particular, and with Asia in general. Japan, however, is currently in the midst of stormy territorial disputes with both China and South Korea.

The timing is dictated by Noda's desire to represent the country at the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation forum in 2 weeks' time in Vladivostok Russia as well as at the annual meetings of the international monetary fund and the World Bank in mid-October.

In addition to his official duties, Noda is going to have to fend off a challenge from a group, the Council for Reviving the DPJ, that is seeking to coalesce around a rival to the Prime Minister in the party presidential vote, less than a month away on September 21.

The Prime Minister believes that he has a magic bullet that can reverse his party's standings and public opinion.

He will be calling for a phase-out of nuclear power, although he recently gave the go-ahead to restarting a few nuclear reactors to meet a shortfall in energy production. According to public opinion polls, 60% of the respondents would do away with nuclear power. The strongly pro-business LDP, that installed the nuclear energy infrastructure in the first place, will not be able to match a pledge to end nuclear energy production.