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Japan to hold general election on December 16

Japan will hold a general election on December 16, putting an end to months of speculation over the date of polls.

Japanese prime minister Yoshiko Noda, right, debates with Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party president Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Wednesday.
Japanese prime minister Yoshiko Noda, right, debates with Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party president Shinzo Abe in Parliament on Wednesday.

TOKYO // Japan will hold a general election on December 16, putting an end to months of speculation over the date of polls.

Jun Azumi, the Democratic Party of Japan deputy party secretary general, said yesterday that the country would be going to the polls next month.

"We will quickly draft our campaign platform, as the official campaign will start on December 4," Mr Azumi told broadcaster NHK, referring to the start of a 12-day period that will come ahead of polling day.

Mr Azumi's confirmation came after a showdown in parliament between the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, and the opposition leader, Shinzo Abe. Mr Noda said he would dissolve the house on November 16 if he got pledges on electoral reform.

Mr Abe, a former prime minister and recently re-elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), stalled during the debate, but said later in the day: "I will fully cooperate in prime minister Noda's proposal."

Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP secretary general, said top party officials "had decided to cooperate, taking seriously the prime minister's comment", Jiji Press said.

A promise on electoral reform was one of the conditions Mr Noda has set to call an election.

The passage of legislation that will allow the government to borrow more money and pay bills that fall due this financial year was another.

Agreement on that issue was reached on Tuesday.

Mr Azumi said Mr Noda had put country before party in working out the timing of the ballot.

"It is not a schedule that benefits our party. But the prime minister made his decision, thinking of the national interest first," he said.

"There was tense opposition in our party against parliamentary dissolution.

"We must be strong. Unless we stay strong, changes of the government cannot happen in the future."

Opinion polls in recent months have made dismal reading for Mr Noda, with public support leeching away from his fragmenting party.