Japan's prime minister has dissolved the lower house of parliament, paving the way for a general election that's likely to end his party's three-year rule. His gamble could open the way for a conservative-led government.
Yoshihiko Noda (left in photo), Japan's sixth prime minister in six years and the third since the 2009 election win by the Democratic Party of Justice (DPJ), had announced on that Wednesday he would call the election. He made it official on Friday, dissolving the lower house of Japan's parliament, the Diet.
"I want to seek a mandate from the people," Noda told reporters. The poll is due December 16.
In exchange, Noda secured multiple concessions Friday at the outgoing parliament's closing session, including a deficit-financing agreement allowing the government to issue bonds worth 38.3 trillion yen (477 billion dollars), without which Japan would have gone broke at the end of November.
Because of the hold-up in its passage, the government had to cut spending and, without the bonds, had been expected to run out of money for everything but essential services by the end of this month. Electoral reforms were also passed, reducing the number of seats in the Diet.
Out with the new
Noda had already promised in August to hold an election "soon" in order to secure opposition support on legislation to double the country's sales tax. In a debate on Wednesday, he had pledged to dissolve parliament and set the wheels in motion for a vote in exchange for opposition support on the financing bill and the proposed electoral reform.
Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled almost uninterrupted for half a century before the DPJ swept to power in 2009, agreed to those terms.
The DPJ portrayed the policy changes, some of which enable the heavily indebted country to take out further loans and to meet upcoming repayment deadlines, as a national priority so pressing as to warrant the early vote.
Commentators say no single party will have the numbers to govern alone after the election, with an untidy coalition of the conservative LDP and smaller fringe parties seen as a likely outcome.
mkg/ipj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)