Abe says dissolving lower house should not be ruled out

http://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/abe-says-dissolving-lower-house-should-not-be-ruled-out

TOKYO —

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that dissolving the House of Representatives for a snap general election “should not be ruled out” amid speculation that national elections for both chambers of parliament may be held simultaneously next summer.

“Generally speaking, dissolution (of the lower house) should not be ruled out. But I’m not considering it for now,” Abe said in a speech in Tokyo.

With rumors about a so-called “double election,” lawmakers have been making efforts to correct disparities in the weight of votes in lower house elections in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in November that the 2014 election was held “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

Referring to the ruling that cited disparities in the weight of votes of up to 2.13-fold, Abe said he “takes it seriously.”

Abe said his governing coalition will increase efforts so that the envisaged electoral reform will become law.

A lower house election was last held in December 2014, with 475 members elected to four-year terms. But a prime minister can call a snap election before their terms expire.

At present, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito control a two-thirds majority in the lower house and a majority in the House of Councillors.

Half of the 242 upper house members will face re-election next summer.

Given the likelihood that Japan will meet its target of boosting the number of foreign tourists to the country to 20 million a year by 2020, the prime minister referred to a new goal of attracting 30 million visitors a year.

Abe said steps to transform Japan into a tourism nation will help vitalize regional economies.

One such measure would be building what he called “corridors for vitalizing local economies,” or linking regions with transportation networks such as shinkansen bullet trains.

Government data show that the number of foreign visitors to Japan this year totaled an estimated 16.32 million as of the end October, already surpassing a record of 13.41 million logged last year.

The number is expected to reach 19 million by the end of 2015.

© KYODO

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