Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested Wednesday that he will dissolve the lower house of parliament Friday, triggering an election that is likely to oust Noda and his unpopular party from power. The government said the election will be held Dec. 16. In a testy debate with opposition leader Shinzo Abe, Noda said he would go ahead with the move in exchange for cooperation on a bill to shrink the size of parliament. Officials from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) quickly said they would agree to the deal.
The apparent agreement sets up Japan for yet another leadership change, its seventh in seven years, and adds to the uncertainty in a region where China’s Communist Party is promoting a new guard and South Korea is preparing for a close presidential election next month.
Noda had promised in August to call elections “soon,” but until Wednesday he had remained vague about the timetable, hoping his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could recapture some of the popularity it has squandered over the past three years. That did not happen. Polls conducted by major Japanese newspapers show the party with approval ratings in the low teens.
“I can dissolve the parliament November 16,” Noda told Abe, the front-runner to become the next prime minister.
“It’s a promise, a promise, right?” Abe said. “We’ll let the people decide.”