• Kyodo

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Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said he thinks it preferable to hold a general election this fall rather than wait until next year when the current Lower House term ends in a meeting with an executive of the Komeito party, a source with knowledge of the meeting said Tuesday.

Aso met with Tetsuo Saito, secretary general of the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, on Monday, the source said, adding Saito did not express support for the idea.

Aso, a close aide to the prime minister, is apparently of the view that Abe should call an election at an early date with his term as LDP president and thus prime minister ending in September 2021.

It is up to the prime minister to decide when to dissolve the House of Representatives. The current four-year term for Lower House members will end in October 2021, meaning an election must be held by then.

Some ruling and opposition lawmakers are already preparing for an election as early as this fall, speculating that Abe will dissolve the Lower House.

Only a few days after a regular 150-day parliamentary session ended in mid-June, Hiroshi Moriyama, the LDP’s Diet affairs chief, said an election is possible this year. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has dismissed the idea.

Abe has left lawmakers guessing about the timing of the next election, saying that his primary focus is on stemming the spread of COVID-19 and reviving the recession-hit economy after public dissatisfaction grew over his handling of the epidemic.

The approval rate for his Cabinet fell to 36.7 percent from 39.4 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed this month, following the arrests of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his lawmaker wife over alleged vote buying in an Upper House election last year in which she won her Diet seat. Kawai is known for his close ties with Abe.

Aso served as prime minister between 2008 and 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

He is widely regarded as having misjudged the timing of an election back then after being preoccupied with the post-Lehman response. The LDP suffered a crushing defeat in a Lower House poll in the summer of 2009, leading to the formation of a new government led by the then Democratic Party of Japan.

Earlier in the month, Abe held talks with Aso for about an hour at his office, which is rare for a leader with a tight weekday schedule, fueling talk that they may have discussed when to dissolve the Lower House.

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