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The Timing of the Snap Election

April 20, 2009

The Japanese political system is parliamentary democracy. One of the main differences when compared to the American system is politicians can decide to call a “snap election,” in other words they can call to dissolve the parliament and try to realign political alliances to their advantage. The snap election is the general buzz term of the year in Japanese political news, and every Japanese newspaper reports political commentary to try to predict when the snap election will be held.

This weekend the focus was on commentary made by the Secretary General of the LDP’s coalition party, the Komeito party. The Komeito party’s important because both the LDP and the Komeito’s policies should be politically in sync. Here’s what the newspapers reported about Komeito’s Secretary General, Kitagawa-san.

Nikkei “The chance for a snap election is when the economy bottoms out” The Nikkei reported that Kitagawa-san said, “The bill for the 2009 budget needs to be passed before we try to do a snap election.” As to exactly when that timing would be, the Nikkei hinted at the commentary made by Kitagawa-san. “In August, we’ll get the numbers for the GDP for April to June. Once we have the feeling that the economy is bottoming out, that is our chance for a snap election.”

Yomiuri “The snap election will be either in August, or afterwards” The Yomiuri reported a slightly different take on the Secretary General’s words, stating that the Economic Stimulus package (not the 2009 budget) needs to be passed before calling a snap election. They also focused on the time frame, stating that the Secretary General said “It’s important to be able to feel like they economy’s bottoming out. The economic report for the April to June GDP will be released in August.” With these words the Yomiuri concluded that the snap election would be held in August, or afterwards.

Asahi “I have no idea what Kitagawa-san said” – Prime Minister Aso The Asahi newspaper generally has a direct interview reported with the Prime Minister for its political news column. The reporting style of the interviews sometimes makes it sound like either the Prime Minister’s being ambiguous, or incompetent, depending on the interpretation of the reader. Prime Minister Aso said “It’s not that the budget and the snap election are directly related. Actually, no, they have no relationship. We have to focus on getting the budget passed.” The Asahi then asked, “Well Kitagawa-san mentioned you’ll have to feel like the economy’s bottoming out before doing the snap election, so it might be in August or afterwards?” The Prime Minister replied “Did he tell you this directly? I have no idea what Kitagawa-san said.”

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