Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament today for an election next month, in a political gamble widely expected to strip his centre-left party of power.

“I want to seek a mandate from the people,” Noda told reporters in the morning as he arrived at the prime minister’s office ahead of a cabinet meeting.

The dissolution itself was a brief affair, with the lower house speaker reading a short promulgation prepared by the premier and endorsed by Emperor Akihito, the constitutional head of state.

An extraordinary meeting of the cabinet was to be held later Friday, at which December 16 is expected to be formally announced as election day.

Noda has been under pressure to call elections for months and offered dissolution of the main decision-making chamber in a parliamentary debate earlier this week.

He managed along the way to secure a number of concessions from his opponents — key among them an agreement on a deficit-financing bill allowing the government to issue bonds to cover its debts this financial year, without which Japan would have effectively run out of money at the end of this month.

That bill passed the opposition-controlled upper house this morning.

Noda’s own ill-disciplined Democratic Party of Japan is anything but united on the need for an election on December 16.

Poor poll numbers, voter disillusionment, increasing tensions with China, the slow pace of recovery from the tsunami of March 2011 and a plodding economy mean many in the DPJ fear for their seats.

(This article was published on November 16, 2012)
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