Speculation within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over a possible extension of the current regular Diet session, a move that could result in a double election this summer, has grown ahead of the scheduled end of the 150-day session on June 26.
The speculation has grown because the government is moving to submit a bill to revise the law on national strategic special zones in order to realize “super cities” where cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence will be fully utilized. It’s believed that it will be difficult to pass the legislation during the ongoing session without an extension.
The move and the possible extension is apparently aimed at setting the stage for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dissolve the House of Representatives and arrange an election for the same date as that of a triennial election this summer for the House of Councilors.
Opposition parties, as well as Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP, are cautious over the possibility of a double election.
The government plans to adopt the super city legislation at a Cabinet meeting on Friday for submission to the Diet.
“Now is not the time to say that there will be no extension of the current session, as a new bill is expected to be submitted to the Diet,” LDP Diet affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama, who had previously sounded negative over the possibility of a Diet extension, said at a news conference Tuesday.
In talks with reporters Wednesday, he went further, saying, “(An extension of the Diet session) will be decided if necessary.”
Many LDP members see the latest remarks by Moriyama as being intended to rattle the opposition.
Meanwhile, a government source said that Abe, also president of the LDP, apparently wants to keep the option of a Diet extension open.
If the session ends without an extension, the Upper House election is likely to be set for July 21, informed sources said. But if it is extended, the election could take place in August, the sources added.
Many LDP members believe that an extension will lead to a double election.
“If a Diet extension comes into sight, we’ll inevitably switch to double election mode,” a senior LDP official said.
Speculation over a possible dissolution of the Lower House and a double election grew as Abe held a series of meetings with key government and LDP officials this week, including LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as finance minister.
A Komeito official voiced concern, saying that the LDP is trying to use the super city legislation to extend the Diet session, while officials of major opposition parties expressed their anger.
“The LDP should stop playing around with the Diet,” Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Diet affairs chief of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters Wednesday.
“What we need to do now is convene budget committee meetings, rather than talking about a Diet extension,” said Keiji Kokuta, Diet affairs chief of the Japanese Communist Party.