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Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:18PM -

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(AP) Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday that he is ready to dissolve the parliament by Friday, bringing an election within weeks, if Japan's main opposition party agrees to key electoral reforms.


Noda made the pledge during a heated parliamentary exchange with Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe. The LDP has been pushing Noda to make good on a promise to call elections soon, but he has said lawmakers must first carry out reforms needed to make the vote constitutional.


The reforms Noda is requiring would include shrinking the size of the lower house of parliament. Noda said the legislature would also have to approve an urgently needed deficit financing bill.


We have to achieve that (parliamentary shrinkage) as soon as possible. We must to make a decision and set a deadline. I can dissolve parliament on Nov. 16. Let's do it, Noda said.


Abe said, It's a promise, a promise, right? So you're sure. You are sure, right? If you dissolve the parliament on the 16th, we'll let the people decide. We'll let the people decide which of us is better suited to get the country out of deflation and get the economic recovery back on track, Abe retorted.


I look forward to meeting you at the election battle, he said.


The two sides agreed earlier in the week on pushing ahead with the legislation authorizing the issuance of deficit bonds worth 38 trillion yen ($475 billion) to help cover the national budget. The government otherwise would have hit its own fiscal cliff, running short of funding by the end of the month.


The LDP is eager to hold elections and challenge the hold on power by Noda's Democratic Party of Japan. The Democrats are divided over holding an election at a time when Noda's popularity rating in most national polls has dropped below 20 percent.


Associated Press
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