Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] president) has decided not to dissolve the House of Representatives in January. Based on an analysis of the results of various surveys on the political situation, he has judged that if a Lower House election is held under the present situation, the number of seats currently held by the LDP and Komeito, which enable them to control a two-thirds majority in the lower chamber of the Diet, is highly likely to be reduced. It is reckoned that there will be little merit in holding a snap election with almost two years still left in the Lower House members’ term of office. Since the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election is scheduled to take place next summer, the next Lower House election is now expected to be delayed until next fall or later.
Abe had been considering Lower House dissolution in late 2016 or early 2017 as an option. He had quietly instructed LDP Election Strategy Committee Chairman Keiji Furuya to study and analyze the number of votes LDP Diet members are likely to win. Replacing some junior lawmakers with new candidates had also been considered, but the research found out that if the Democratic Party (DP), the Japanese Communist Party, and other opposition parties form a united front and field a single candidate in the electoral districts, the ruling parties will very likely lose their two-thirds majority.
Furthermore, with nearly two years still left in the Lower House members’ term, holding an election in the coldest period of winter may give rise to criticism that the Prime Minister is bothering the people to serve selfish party interests. Considering the above, Abe has decided not to dissolve the Lower House in January. He told his aides, “I will not dissolve the Lower House in January. There is little merit in doing so.”
The regular Diet session next year will have to deal with a number of important legislative measures, including the FY17 budget and legislation for the Emperor’s abdication. Amid the change of leaders in the U.S., the UK, Italy, the Philippines, and other countries, Abe is poised to exert utmost efforts to work on foreign policy, security, domestic politics, and other issues.
Deliberation on Abe’s long-cherished dream of constitutional revision will be put off until the extraordinary Diet session next fall or later. In light of this, the key question in the political arena will be whether the Prime Minister will dissolve the Lower House in fall, before full-fledged deliberation on the constitution begins. The Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party] and other third-force parties are also expected to become more active during this process.
However, with the DP’s support rating languishing and its president Renho bogged down by her dual citizenship issue, a considerable number of ruling party members are keen on early dissolution. There is still an opinion that the Lower House should be dissolved quickly after the regular Diet session in January passes the third FY16 extraordinary Diet session.