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The Japanese people are counting down the days in anticipation of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolving the House of Representatives and calling a general election.
On Monday, several executives of Noda's Democratic Party of Japan said that final decision would be made by the end of the year.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the lower house budget committee meeting in Tokyo on Monday. Figures showing a 0.9 percent contraction in Japan's economy in the three months to September, the first in three quarters, are severe, Noda said. YURIKO NAKAO / REUTERS
Noda cabinet members will face a grilling early next week when they appear before a session of the Lower House Budget Committee, where they will be asked to explain the crucial bond-issuance bill to finance the fiscal 2012 budget.
The main opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party, decided on Nov 8 to cooperate to pass the bill in the opposition-controlled Upper House, anticipating that it would prompt Noda to dissolve the House of Representatives by the end of the year.
LDP leader Shinzo Abe's decision marked a change in his long-held stance that the LDP would not cooperate unless Noda set a date for dissolving the Lower House for an election.
The government's financial resources for the fiscal 2012 budget will run out by month's end without legislation. The bill, which is needed to fund 40 percent of this year's budget, is set to be approved on Nov 19. With its passage now almost assured, Noda has been pushed a step closer to dissolving the Lower House for a snap election.
Noda promised leaders of the LDP and New Komeito in August that he would dissolve the Lower House "soon" after the bond bill is passed and progress is made on lessening the vote-value disparity in the Lower House and addressing social security reform.
At a session of the Lower House Budget Committee on Monday, LDP lawmaker Naokazu Takemoto urged Noda to set a date for the dissolution.
Noda remained tight-lipped.
He discussed with DPJ Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi the timing of dissolving the Lower House for an hour on Sunday night. His party's No 2 opposed dissolving the Lower House before the end of the year.
In an interview with Tokyo Broadcasting System television on Monday, Mabuchi Sumio, representing Goshi Hosono, the DPJ policy research committee chair, said the dissolution of the Lower House by the end of the year is possible, and good preparations for a DPJ manifesto are necessary.
On an inspection visit to Fukuoka city on Saturday, Noda said the DPJ will boost Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks and make it one of the party's campaign pledges during the next House of Representatives election.
The decision could rankle with DPJ lawmakers known to oppose the TPP, including Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi. The TPP would eliminate tariffs on agricultural and industrial products.
Sources close to the prime minister said he is considering dissolving the Lower House for a general election immediately after officially announcing plans to take part in TPP talks, according to Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun.
US President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend an East Asia Summit meeting from Nov 18 to 20 in Cambodia. The Japanese government is seeking to hold Noda-Obama talks during the conference. Noda is reportedly considering making the TPP announcement at the meeting with Obama, or at a news conference later this month.
The TPP talks will lead to conflict within the party and may lead to the exodus of party members. If more than six DPJ lawmakers were to leave, the Noda administration would become a minority government, meaning a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet could be adopted.
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The reporter is the Tokyo bureau chief of China Daily.