Japan: Censure motion brings country to political gridlock
September 4, 2012
On 29 August, opposition parties passed a non-binding censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in the upper house. The motion implies that the government will be unable to pass any new legislation, including a long-awaited debt-issuance bill needed to finance about 40% of this fiscal year's budget. Finance Minister Jun Azumi confirmed that the impasse could imply that the government is running out of money to fund its operations, raising concerns among investors that the country is being driven towards a "fiscal cliff". Simultaneously, government plans to implement controversial electoral reform have also been halted. Changes to the electoral system had been originally planned after the Supreme Court ruled in March 2011 that the electoral system used in the 2009 general elections had to be amended due to the high discrepancy of voting weight between constituencies. Against this backdrop, the prime minister, who had agreed to call a snap election in return for opposition support for sales tax reform in July, is now under even greater pressure to dissolve parliament, which may force him to call for elections even earlier than originally expected.