National / Politics

After Typhoon Hagibis, dissolution of Lower House by year-end for snap election now seen as unlikely

JIJI

After Typhoon Hagibis caused extensive damage in Japan earlier this month, it is now increasingly unlikely that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will dissolve the House of Representatives — the powerful Lower House of the Diet — by the end of the year for a snap general election, political observers have said.

Monday marked the midway point in the four-year terms of current Lower House members, who won seats in the chamber in the October 2017 election.

A Lower House dissolution “could come at any time” once half of the term passes, said a person who has served as minister.

Some in both the ruling and opposition camps had been bracing for the possibility of Abe dissolving the Lower House next month unless substantial progress is made in Diet discussions on amendments to the Constitution. Major opposition parties remain reluctant to accept debates on the topic.

But work to reconstruct areas hit by Typhoon Hagibis is now expected to take a long time, reducing the odds of a Lower House breakup any time soon.

“I don’t at all feel an atmosphere around me of the Lower House being (close to being) dissolved,” said Fumio Kishida, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, at a news conference Monday.

“Were it not for the typhoon I’d thought there would be a Lower House dissolution after Daijosai, but it’s not likely anymore,” said a senior member of the Komeito, LDP’s junior coalition partner, referring to the thanksgiving ceremony to be performed by Emperor Naruhito on Nov. 14 to 15.

The government and ruling parties are considering compiling a fiscal 2019 supplementary budget to cover costs for reconstruction related to the typhoon, apparently aiming to submit it at the start of next year’s ordinary Diet session — set to be convened in January.

“It has become difficult to dissolve the Lower House early next year,” said a senior LDP official in charge of Diet affairs.

Opposition parties are also against an early snap election.

The government and the Diet “should fully focus their efforts on post-disaster reconstruction,” Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, told reporters.

“Expectations for a Lower House breakup by year-end have been blown away by the typhoon,” said a senior member of Nippon Ishin no Kai, who suggested that the chamber may be dissolved after the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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