TOKYO — Riding a wave of popularity after his re-election as leader of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call new elections, the Kyodo news agency reported Friday.
Koizumi, who completed an extensive shake-up of his Cabinet only three days ago, was expected to announce later in the day at an extraordinary session of the Diet, or parliament, that he would dissolve the House of Representatives on Oct. 10 and call a general election for Nov. 9 to bolster his campaign for regulatory and financial reforms, Kyodo said.
The reforms have been strongly opposed by business leaders, and the Nikkei stock average was down 0.54 percent or 55.85 points.
The House had called the special session to consider a bill pushed by Koizumi to extend a controversial law authorizing Japan’s participation in U.S.-led antiterrorism operations. The session had been planned for 36 days, but the election schedule will likely leave lawmakers with only two weeks to debate the measure.
Under the law, Japan has sent ships from its Maritime Self-Defense Force to refuel foreign vessels participating in anti-terrorism operations in the Indian Ocean. The law expires Nov. 1, but Koizumi hopes to have it extended before President Bush arrives for a state visit Oct. 17.
Extended debate on the measure would be short-circuited by the snap elections, since campaigning for the House would have to begin well before then, Kyodo said, quoting members of the Diet.
Under the Constitution, only the prime minister is authorized to dissolve the lower house, and a general election is required to be held within 40 days.
Asked whether he planned to dissolve the House after the antiterrorism bill passed the Diet, Koizumi told Kyodo, “Well, something like that,” indicating that he expected the bill to have been approved by Oct. 10.
MASSIVE GOVERNMENT SHAKE-UP
The elections would complete a sweeping shake-up of the government that Koizumi began Monday, only two days after the LDP re-elected him as its leader, when he shuffled his Cabinet to install new members who support his tough economic reforms.
Significantly, Heizo Takenaka, the government’s leading advocate of the reforms, survived the shuffle, retaining his portfolios as minister of both economics and banking.
“I plan to speed up reforms,” Takenaka said Monday. “I think this shows the prime minister’s strong expectations with regard to structural reforms.”
The reforms would allow the government to foreclose on banks and firms that failed to meet tight deadlines to write off non-performing loans and return to profitability by 2005. The plan sparked strong criticism among business leaders and opposition politicians.
But Kyodo said Koizumi would reiterate his resolve to pursue the reforms in policy speeches he would give Friday to the House of Representatives and the upper House of Councillors.
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