Japan’s Noda to Call Snap Election in November

The prime minister’s Democratic Party is unpopular but he has to call elections anyway.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan delivers a press conference in his office in Tokyo, June 26
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan delivers a press conference in his office in Tokyo, June 26 (Kantei)

Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda shared with opposition lawmakers on Thursday his intention to call snap elections in November.

While the outlook is uncertain as to what party will come out on top given the public’s disgust with politics as usual, it is clear that the ruling party is in for a tough election.

The Democratic Party of Japan has suffered especially weak approval ratings since it increased the country’s sales tax in June. There is also a general perception that it has failed to follow through on its pledges to change the way politics is done in Japan.

Noda secured the support of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Kōmeitō during negotiations in early August to get his consumption tax bill through the upper house of the Diet. The conditions were that he would call elections soon though no timetable was given.

The Liberal Democrats threatened to call a confidence vote and withhold support for a bill that allowed the government to issue more debt in order to fund the budget unless the Democrats agreed to call elections in the near time.

In effect, the opposition was threatening Noda with the fiscal collapse of Japan in return for snap elections that it expects to do well in.

The tax bill passed in June will raise Japan’s sales tax from 5 to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October of the following year.

Noda wagered his political future on passage of the tax bill as the first step in addressing Japan’s fiscal woes. Voters largely agreed with his goals but with the economy continuing to exhibit weak growth, the timing of the bill was of concern to the public.

On top of the continuing controversy and debate over nuclear power in Japan, coming just a year after the Fukushima disaster, public dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party was palpable.

A poll taken by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in early August showed support for Noda’s government at a record low. It was expected then that elections would soon be called.

With elections looming, Japan is facing further political turmoil as it struggles to stimulate economic growth and is involved in territorial spars with its neighbors, China and South Korea, over the Takeshima and Senkaku Islands.