Tokyo Notes

Snap double election?

Speculation over the possibility of a snap double election this summer has the media excited.

Debate over the likelihood of a double election here was still rumbling along in the media Wednesday.

One of the main dailies, the Asahi Shimbun, explored the possibilities in its morning edition. The piece was one of many recent articles in the media looking at the issue following last Friday’s remark by National Strategy Minister Yoshito Sengoku that a combined lower and upper house election was possible this summer if Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped down.

Sengoku was subsequently slammed by many of his fellow cabinet members for what was seen as a rash remark, while those close to him reportedly tried to explain away the comment as merely referring to the need to be prepared for all eventualities.

An irritated Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano reportedly said Monday that Cabinet Ministers should not infringe on the prime minister’s ‘exclusive right’ to call an election by dissolving the lower house. He added that the possibility of a dual election was ‘out of the question.’ DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa also ruled out the possibility on Monday.

The Asahi picked up on the various comments made by DPJ bigwigs including a quip by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima, who, referring to Sengoku’s post and the possibility of a lower house dissolution, apparently said, ‘I don’t consider a dissolution to be a national strategy.’

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A dual election certainly seems very unlikely. After all, with the Democratic Party of Japan’s popularity plunging below 30 percent, it’s hard to see it performing as well in another lower house election less than a year after its crushing victory.

At the same time, though, would the Liberal Democratic Party be in a position to gain any ground? Not with its own popularity even lower than the DPJ and, according to the Asahi, with up to 100 single-seat constituencies without candidates as its members seek to leave or set up their own mini parties.

An earlier story in The Yomiuri Shimbun referred to the possibility that Sengoku’s remark was actually an attempt to get lawmakers to worry about the safety of their own seats before calling for Hatoyama’s head. Seems a bit far-fetched. But even the Asahi story referred to the paranoia symbolized by one senior LDP member who believed Ozawa was still capable of changing his tune and calling a dual election this summer as a way of catching out the LDP.