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Political parties gear up for possible snap election

Date Posted: 2012-05-12

Nobody knows exactly what Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is planning to do in the next few weeks, but everyone knows the possibility of his calling for a snap election is a strong possibility.

Both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the principal opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party, have already chosen candidates for virtually all of the Lower House’s 300 single-seat constituencies for the next general election. Officially, terms of office for the 480 Lower House members don’t expire until August 2013, but party leaders are concerned Prime Minister Noda could dissolve the Lower House and call the snap election before the current Diet session ends next month.

There are concerns that Noda’s consumption tax legislation could stall, and that could put the Prime Minister’s back to the wall. Noda’s said he’d stake his political career on getting the bill passed.

In the last election, in August 2009, the DPJ swept control from the LDP after more than 50 years of near-continuous rule by the LDP, winning 308 seats. Today, though, the number of DPJ members in the Lower House has dipped to 290 after defections from the party started following Noda’s announcement of plans to double the sales tax to 10% over the next four years. The DPJ is planning to field 293 candidates, mostly those seeking re-election, but with five new entries to the race.

The LDP plans to put 117 incumbents before the voters once more, try to bring back 73 former Lower House members, and introduce 79 new faces as part of its 269 candidates. The second largest opposition party, New Komeito, says it has candidates in nine single seat electoral districts, and 27 in the proportional representation category.

The Japanese Communist Party says it intends to compete in all 300 single-seat districts and has identified candidates to run in 161 of them. Osaka Ishin-no Kai, a regional party put together by Osaka’s popular mayor, Toru Hashimoto, is injecting 300 candidates into the race if it happens, or next year during scheduled elections. The new group says it expects to win about 200 of the Lower House Seats.

The Your Party plans to put 100 candidates before the voters, and has chosen 53 already. If Your Party were to form an alliance with Osaka Ishin-no Kai, it would create the third-largest political muscle in the Lower House.

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