Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the Lower House of the Diet (Parliament) on Friday paving the way for a December 16 general election that as per the recent popular sentiment could result in his ruling party losing power.
Speaker Takahiro Yokomichi officially announced the dissolution at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon.
Noda's decision to dissolve the House was approved by the Cabinet in the morning after two important pieces of legislation -- the issuance of central government bonds to cover debts and the bill to reform the Lower House electoral system - were enacted with their passage in the Opposition-dominated Upper House.
Going into the Cabinet meeting, Noda told reporters that his party would strive to win a popular mandate in next month's elections. Noda, who also heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), said he "will resolutely face the public."
Later, addressing a press conference in the evening to explain the dissolution, Noda said that his party will continue to take measures to boost the economy and pursue policies to eliminate all nuclear power plants in the country within decades.
Opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe, who is potentially positioned to become the next Prime Minister as the DPJ is expected to get a drubbing at the polls, said "both the LDP and the public have waited for this day for three years."
DPJ swept the LDP out of power in 2009 after 54 years of nearly unbroken rule amid the country's worst economic slump since the World War II. But it was also the beginning of the downfall of the government, which experimented with three successive Prime Ministers over three years.
It was only a matter of time when Noda decides to ring the poll bell, as the life of his government was extended by the support that major opposition parties provided in passing a set of crucial bills in exchanger for his pledge in August that he would go to the people "sometime soon."
LDP and its ally the New Komeito party cooperated with Noda to pass the social security and tax reform bills.
Noda hinted that the dissolution is imminent during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday with Abe, who promised to support a reduction in the number of single-seat constituencies of the Lower House by five to correct disparities in voter representation through Diet deliberations next year, and demanded an immediate dissolution of parliament and early elections.
Although opinion polls suggest a clear edge for LDP in the election, the emergence of a "third force" to take on the DPJ and the LDP projects a hung-Parliament.
Polls show almost half of all voters are undecided, and the lack of clear majority for any party or bloc in the election points to the prospect that the next government is likely to be a coalition, formed after a period of deal-making with smaller parties.
Japan's political power broker Ichiro Ozawa, who broke away from DPJ along with 49 rebel lawmakers protesting sales tax hike proposal, launched in July a new party called People's Lives First.
Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara on Tuesday launched a new conservative party with the aim of forming a "third force" to run for the next general elections. He is in talks with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Japan Restoration Party seeking alliance ahead of the polls.
by RTT Staff Writer
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