The situation wasn’t helped at all by comments made by former Foreign Minister and current National Policy Office Secretary Maehara Seiji. On the 21st Maehara appeared on a Fuji Television network program “News 2001”, and promptly managed to unleash a whole wave of speculation regarding debate within the DPJ about a snap election by declaring that…” In my understanding, dissolving parliament in the new year would not constitute (dissolving parliament) “soon”. The Prime Minister is a man who keeps his promises.” (J) This statement has been interpreted as either a slip of the tongue by Maehara (who is not noted for being unduly candid on camera – re: his time as Foreign Minister), or an indication that Maehara believes that only a snap election held within the year will save the DPJ from being hammered at the polls and ceasing to exist as a viable alternative to the LDP/Komeito coalition (as explored very astutely by Yamazaki Hajime here). In short, the longer the DPJ clings to power, the more it damages its chances of maintaining any influence in a future parliament. With the DPJ out of power, PM Noda could step down as leader and allow the party to rebuild its thoroughly tarnished public image. In the meantime Abe Shinzo would be PM before the Senate elections next year. This would result in votes moving back to the DPJ (given Abe’s unpopularity with sections of the community, not to mention his standing with Japan’s neighbours) and head off any attempt by the Reform Party (led by Hashimoto Toru) to seize seats in the Senate.
Whether this scenario has been considered by Maehara is a question that will have to be left to future biographers. At this stage, all one can say is that PM Noda’s term in office may come to a dramatic conclusion if younger members of the DPJ begin to waver in their support and openly suggest that PM Noda call an election. This will be precisely what the opposition wants, but in the end it will restore the DPJ and increase the chances of a LDP/Komeito coalition having to deal with yet another hung parliament.