Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to dissolve the lower house of the Japanese parliament a few days after the beginning of the extraordinary session on September 28.
United States President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Japan in early November, making it probable that the dissolution will come on October 17, with the election on the 29th. Dissolution on the 10th, with the election on the 22nd, is also a possibility.
The Prime Minister is visiting the US from September 18 to 22, and is planning to make the final decision in consultation with members of the government and the ruling party after returning to Japan.
According to knowledgable sources, Soka Gakkai, which backs LDP coalition partner Komeito, called in top officials for an emergency meeting on Saturday, September 16. The officials were given instructions to prepare for an election without delay. Komeito itself has scheduled an emergency meeting of its standing board for September 19.
Although Soka Gakkai has not changed its view that “there is a big risk in an early dissolution,” it indicates that there has been no change in its policy of mutual electoral cooperation with the LDP.
The Prime Minister had initially been thinking of announcing proposed amendments to the Constitution during the regular Diet session in 2018. The main pillar of the proposed amendments would be a supplement to Article 9, clarifying the position of the Self-Defense Forces. Then there would be a referendum on the revisions and a lower house election before the lower house term came to an end on December 13, 2018. (Read also: A Proposed “National Constitution of Japan” by Sankei Shimbun)
However, North Korea has accelerated its development of missiles and nuclear weapons, leading to an escalation of tension with the United States. Trump has stated that military action is one of the options that the US has. Given that the situation has deteriorated, the probability of tension continuing for an extended period has greatly increased.
As a consequence, the Prime Minister decided, “This is an opportunity for dissolution not to be lost.” He also thinks this is an opportunity to have the people look again at the policy toward North Korea, to consider the legal structure for mutual defense that the LDP-Komeito coalition has created in preparation for emergencies, and to make an appeal for the further strengthening of the US-Japan alliance.
The prospect for revising the Constitution had failed to develop due to a sharp drop in support for the Cabinet as a consequence of the Kake Gakuen issue and Komeito becoming passive in its support for the coalition. The Prime Minister sees holding an election as the means to break out of this situation and to make a direct appeal to the people on the issue of clarifying the status of the Self-Defence Forces.
Initially the government had planned to prioritize during the extraordinary session of the Diet the proposed laws pertaining to the reform of the work environment of Japan. However, Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation), which had initially accepted the proposed laws, shifted to opposition after divisive debate within the organization, and it appeared increasingly likely that the Diet session would be hard to manage.
Three by-elections are scheduled for October 22 following the formal start of campaigning on the 10th: Aomori 4th district, Niigata 5th district, and Ehime 3rd district. But if there is a dissolution prior to the election on the 22nd, then these contests will be absorbed into the general election.
The Prime Minister had been considering dissolution sometime since the end of August. On September 10, he met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso at his private residence. On the 11th, he met with secretary general of LDP Toshihiro Nikai and with Komeito Party chief representative Yamaguchi Natsuo at the Official Residence of the Prime Minister to exchange views of the current political situation.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)