8:53am

Fri November 16, 2012
The Two-Way

Japan Sets Date For National Election

Unpopular Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved Japan's lower house of parliament today, and called for national elections. Voters have increasingly disapproved of Noda, his predecessor and their Democratic Party of Japan since the tsunami and earthquake in March, 2011.

They're also angry over the related Fukushima nuclear power plant accident related to the quake, which has forced the country to grapple with new energy plans and costs. The Japan Times helpfully lays out other reasons why Noda is out of favor: a slowing economy and terrible relations with neighboring China. The Associated Press adds people hate the newly doubled sales tax.

The election is set for Dec. 16, says Kyodo News. Noda is already campaigning for office. He told reporters his party wants to make Japan free of nuclear power in 20 years.

But he might not get the chance to work toward that goal. Noda could be replaced as Japan's leader by the head of the opposition party, former prime minister Shinzo Abe; he actually resigned the job five years ago amid scandals in his Liberal Democratic Party and the belief he wasn't up to the job. The Wall Street Journal says this week, Abe suggested if elected, his LDP will take a more aggressive monetary stance to deal with inflation. And he warned of an increase in military spending to 'maintain the power balance with China'.

Abe has been more hawkish on Japan's simmering dispute with China over a group of islands in the East China Sea that both claim. Japan bought the islands in September from a private Japanese citizen and nationalized them, enraging China, which terms it a 'provocation'.

Noda cautions that tough talking over China can backfire. "Healthy nationalism is necessary, but if one goes to extremes, it becomes jingoism," he said, according to Reuters.

Polls in Japan don't suggest either candidate will win outright, says the AP. Abe's LDP would win the most seats in the lower house, but not enough to secure a majority if the vote were held today. If that polling remains constant, the LDP could end up in a new coalition with Noda's Democratic Party of Japan.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.