Japan’s Suga Denies Reports He’ll Dissolve Parliament Soon
(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga denied he was planning to dissolve parliament in mid-September after media reports said he would make the move to set a path leading to an Oct. 17 general election.
The Mainichi and Yomiuri newspapers had also cited unidentified administration officials as saying Suga would delay a leadership vote in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, now set for Sept. 29, until after the general election.
“The top priority is dealing with the virus,” Suga told reporters Wednesday. “I cannot dissolve parliament in this severe situation,” he added, saying he had no plans to delay the party vote.
Suga is running out of time to announce a date for the election, given that the lower house term runs to Oct. 21. He could opt for the Oct. 17 date without a dissolution of parliament, Kyodo News said Tuesday, citing government sources, while adding the situation was still fluid.
The LDP-led coalition, which has about two thirds of the seats in the lower house, is expected to keep its majority in parliament due to its powerful nationwide election machine. The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party has a support rate mired in single digits.
Limiting the number of parliamentary seats lost might bolster Suga’s prospects of staying on as party leader if he held the general election ahead of the LDP vote. But the idea wouldn’t be popular with lawmakers, according to one political consultant.
“There’s extremely strong opposition to delaying a party leadership vote that’s already been scheduled,” said Takuma Ohamazaki, adding Suga “would bear a great political responsibility” if he dissolved parliament for a snap election and lost.
The Mainichi newspaper had said Suga was looking to change the schedule of political events because he was not assured of gathering enough support within the party in the leadership election. One of the major factions -- led by party No. 2 Toshihiro Nikai -- has thrown its support behind him. But Suga is set to replace Nikai in a reshuffle of party executives, according to public broadcaster NHK and other media, potentially throwing doubt on backing from his group.
For many in the LDP, Suga represents a continuation of the country’s ultra-easy monetary policy and attempts to keep the economy going as far as possible during the pandemic.
Suga’s public support rate is at record lows following scandals and criticism of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. While infection numbers have eased from peaks reached last month, reports of people dying at home due to a lack of hospital beds have sparked unease.
The premier’s only declared rival for the party leadership, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, has vowed to toughen virus policies and revitalize the LDP by appointing younger executives. Kishida was soundly defeated in a party race against Suga last year that also included former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.
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