Japanese PM dissolves parliament

Prime Minister Taro Aso, a former foreign minister, became prime minister in September.
Japan dissolved its lower house of parliament Tuesday ahead of general elections in August.

The move was not unexpected. On July 13, Prime Minister Taro Aso said he would dissolve the lower house of the Diet some time this week. Elections for new lawmakers will be held on August 30, said Jun Matsumoto, the chief Cabinet spokesman, at the time. The beleaguered prime minister has faced increasing pressure from within his party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to step down as his approval rating plummets amid Japan’s worsening economy. In addition, the main opposition party and three others filed a no-confidence motion against Aso and his Cabinet. Earlier this month, the LDP suffered a huge defeat in local elections, when it lost its majority in the Tokyo assembly to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its coalition partner.

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While the race for the Tokyo assembly does not affect the Diet, it was the fifth successive local election loss for the LDP — and a further sign that Aso’s party is losing the confidence of the populace. The LDP holds the majority in the lower house, but not the upper house. The Tokyo assembly defeat convinced some in the LDP that they must oust Aso as party leader before national elections that were scheduled for October, according to analysts. With Tuesday’s move, Aso has moved up the elections by two months. Aso, an outspoken politician and a former foreign minister, became prime minister in September. The last two prime ministers, both from his party, resigned after less than a year in office.