by Sun Xiaozheg, Jon Day
TOKYO, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Japan's new head of the main opposition party on Wednesday pressured Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda again to dissolve the lower house of parliament by the end of this year, hammering him for a lack of leadership. It is the latest blow to the Noda administration in a row.
Meanwhile, Noda's own power base is eroding and with the resignation last week of his justice minister over mob ties, and two more lawmakers' withdrawal from Noda's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the opposition bloc is insisting Noda dissolve the lower house and call a snap election before key talks between the parties on authorizing the issuance of essential deficit-financing bonds can take place.
The latest poll showed that Noda's public support rate had fallen to 20 percent. Analysts say his cabinet is now besieged on all sides.
BETWEEN HAMMER AND ANVIL
"You have created a political vacuum, while trying to put off the dissolution and prolong the life of the government," Shinzo Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party's chief elected late last month, told Noda at the plenary session of the House of Representatives.
Abe, a former prime minister, on Wednesday lambasted the government's planned emergency economic stimulus package as a " stopgap measure," saying the best way to bolster growth is for Noda "to go to the people as soon as possible."
On Monday, the opposition-controlled upper house excluded Noda from giving a policy speech as the extraordinary Diet session convened, which was regarded as another blast to Noda from the opposition party.
"Endless energy continues to be expended on fighting for power by exploiting an issue everyone faces," Noda said Monday in his opening remarks at the lower house on the first day of the extraordinary Diet session.
But despite the Prime Minister's call for cooperation to pass key bills, both the main oppositions, the LDP and the New Komeito Party, did not give clear answers to Noda's proposal.
Abe's remarks Wednesday indicated that unless Noda specifies the timing of the lower house dissolution, the LDP and its ally the New Komeito Party will not work with his ruling party in passing key bills during the extraordinary parliamentary session.
Opposition support is required for Noda to secure passage of any legislation in the current divided Diet, where the ruling coalition led by his DPJ lacks a majority in the House of Councillors.
However, Noda has refused to comment as to when he plans to dissolve the lower house. A regular general election must be held by next August.
While pressured by the opposition, Noda's own party continues losing grip, following increasing defections.
Currently, if the DPJ sees six more defections from the party, it will lose its majority in the lower house, then a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet could be submitted.
Ichiro Ozawa, a shadowy political veteran sparked the first wave of defections when he bolted from the DPJ to start his new party called putting people's lives first -- an old DPJ slogan -- in July.
49 Ozawa loyalists, including 37 lower house lawmakers and 12 upper house lawmakers dramatically bolted from the ruling party in an Ozawa-led mass-exodus in early July.
The exodus was staged to protest Noda's signature plans to double the sales tax from 5 percent and to restart idled nuclear reactors.
In August, Noda, then LDP chief Sadakazu Tanigaki and New Komeito head Natsuo Yamaguchi agreed on a deal to enact legislation for tax hike and social security reforms, in exchange for a promise from Noda to call a general election "sometime soon. "
Besides controversial tax hike bills,Noda also escalated Japan' s diplomatic tensions with China and South Korea over territorial disputes, which Abe said they have been triggered by the Prime Minister's "lack of diplomatic policies," expressing eagerness to put foreign policy back on the right footing if the LDP succeeds in ousting the Democratic Party of Japan from power.
Two cabinet ministers visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine which further tensioned Japan's already soured ties with China and South Korea.
HANGING BY A THREAD
Noda has promised to dissolve the lower house in the near future, but when exactly is "near future"?
At the lower house plenary session on Wednesday, Noda responded to Abe by saying it is necessary to create the right kind of environment before calling a general election that must be held by next summer, suggesting his reluctance to dissolve the lower house at an early date.
Noda is now believed to be delaying dissolution of the more powerful chamber as long as possible, while Abe is intensifying his offensive against Noda as speculation grows that the LDP could become the largest political force in the lower house after the next general election, with the party leader likely to become next prime minister.
But with dwindling public support for Noda's Cabinet, the possibility of more defections from the ruling party and traction being gained by new populist leaders and parties, coupled with increased pressure from the main opposition bloc who doubt the ruling Cabinet's ability to effectively govern, political pundits believe comprehensive change is imminent.