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POLITICS

Column: The G7 Summit and dissolving the lower house

  • 2016-01-07 15:00:00
  • , Mainichi
  • Translation

(Mainichi: January 7, 2016 – p. 10)

 

 By Nakae Ueno, political section

 

 At his New Year’s press conference on Jan. 4, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mentioned the summit meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations (G7 Ise-Shima Summit), which is scheduled to be held in Mie Prefecture at the end of May. He said enthusiastically, “Working together with other leaders of major nations, I want to make the G7 Ise-Shima Summit a major start towards tackling various challenges towards the future of the global economy.” He also said that he is considering visiting each of the six participating countries before the summit, with an eye toward ensuring its success. The prime minister is really throwing himself into this.

 

 This summit is an opportunity for the prime minister to demonstrate his leadership as he chairs the meeting in the presence of the other national leaders, and so the government and ruling parties hope the summit will buoy their administration. The summit has been held in Japan five times in the past. The House of Representatives was dissolved in the same year as the summit four times. That is a probability of 80%.

 

 The only time that it has resulted in a positive outcome for the ruling party, however, was in 1986 when PM Yasuhiro Nakasone held the upper and lower houses elections on the same day. Nakasone called a snap election to correct the apportionment of lower house electoral districts ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Nakasone insisted until the last moment that he had no intention to dissolve the lower house, a tactic subsequently dubbed “playing dead.” The ruling Liberal Democratic Party won by a landslide in 1986.

 

 In 1979, Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira dissolved the lower house, but because Ohira made the unpopular proposal of introducing a “tax increase to reconstruct public finances,” the LDP suffered a crushing defeat. In 1993, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa was forced to dissolve the lower house after failures in political reform. He announced his resignation after a decisive defeat at the polls. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori faced an uphill battle in 2000 when his cabinet support rate plummeted after he made a series of inappropriate remarks. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda considered “dissolving the lower house after the summit” in 2008 but resigned before doing so.

 

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press conference that he “is not considering at all” dissolving the lower house. He indicated that constitutional amendment will be one of the focal points in the upper house election scheduled for this summer. It is commonly thought in Nagatacho that “it is fine for a prime minister to lie about [intentions to] dissolve the house.” Setting aside the issue of justification [for dissolving the house], there is no question that the prime minister is watching eagerly for an opportunity to hold simultaneous elections. The ordinary session of the Diet is the “prelude.” All eyes are on the debate.

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