Japan Upper House Passes Noda Censure in Bid to Force Election

Japan’s opposition-dominated upper house of parliament passed a censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in a bid to force elections and delay the passage of a bill needed to finance government spending.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and smaller groups voted for the non-binding motion, indicating the chamber won’t consider any more legislation before parliament closes on Sept. 8. The measure came a day after the lower house passed a bill authorizing the sale of 38.3 trillion yen ($488 billion) in deficit-financing bonds to fund this year’s budget.

LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki is pushing Noda to fulfill a promise to call elections “soon,” and last week signaled the bond bill won’t be ratified unless the prime minister complies. Without the financing, the government of the world’s third-largest economy will run out of money by October, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said last month.

“With the opposition refusing to take part in debate, there’ll be little time for the government to say anything but, ‘OK, let’s start again in the next session,’” said Harumi Arima, an independent political analyst. “In the end, the LDP will have to give in on the financing bill.”

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the more powerful lower house, forged a deal with the LDP and New Komeito parties to double the five percent sales tax by October 2015 in return for Noda’s pledge. No election need be held until August 2013.

Tanigaki told reporters Aug. 23 that “we hope parliament will be dissolved swiftly, and then after that we can discuss the handling of” the deficit financing bill.

Leadership Contests

The wrangling comes ahead of leadership contests next month in both major parties. The DPJ meets Sept. 21 to decide whether to keep Noda as its standard-bearer as polls show voters disenchanted with his administration, the country’s sixth since 2016.

Almost 65 percent of DPJ members will support Noda, according to a Nikkei newspaper poll published Aug. 27. The DPJ’s approval rating was at 21 percent, up three percentage points from last month, while the LDP’s rating fell two points to 25 percent, the paper said. The Nikkei surveyed 902 people and provided no margin of error.

Last year the DPJ had difficulty pushing through a similar deficit-financing bond issuance bill because the opposition blocked its passage to force then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan to resign. The bill was approved on Aug. 26, the same day Kan announced his resignation. Noda succeeded Kan in September.

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