Hakubun Shimomura, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s election strategy chief, has suggested that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is unlikely to call a general election in October, by dissolving the House of Representatives, amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
“It depends on the coronavirus situation,” said Shimomura, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Election Strategy Committee, in an interview, when asked about speculation that Abe, president of the party, would dissolve the all-important lower chamber of the Diet and hold a general election in October.
“Some argue against the Lower House breakup amid the continuing spread of the new coronavirus,” Shimomura went on to say. “It is difficult to dissolve the chamber unless anxieties among the public (about the pandemic) start to dissipate.”
“Taking the current infection situation into account, now is not the time to consider a Lower House dissolution,” he said, adding, “This is a matter that should be determined by the prime minister. I think the prime minister is trying to find the best time (to call a general election) for the sake of the country and the LDP.”
Shimomura said that discussions should be held not only on revising the special measures law on tackling the virus but also on adding an article related to emergencies to the Constitution, so that the country can handle unexpected events smoothly.
Regarding expectations that Abe will reshuffle his Cabinet and the lineup of LDP executives next month, possibly in his last such action before the end of his term as LDP president in September 2021, Shimomura said that the prime minister was likely to think about how to harmonize policy continuity and new expectations from the public.
Asked if he himself was considering running in the next election for LDP presidency, Shimomura said, “Supporting Prime Minister Abe is my biggest task,” pointing out that both of them belong to the same LDP faction.
Noting that it would be possible for Abe to serve as LDP president for a fourth consecutive three-year term, depending on the timing of a possible Lower House dissolution, Shimomura said, “If I say something about the LDP leadership election, that could deny the prime minister an option. I should not say such things at the moment.”
The LDP’s internal rules allow a party member to serve as its president for up to three straight terms, for up to nine years. Abe is in his third consecutive term as leader of the ruling party.
Shimomura said Abe currently does not seem to be willing to revise the party regulations and stay in the top LDP post for a fourth term.
After Abe, Japan’s next leader should be a person who “can clearly set out and implement policies to rebuild the country at a time when an overwhelming majority of citizens are concerned about whether this nation has a bright future,” Shimomura said.
Shimomura became chairman of a newly established parliamentarians’ league to discuss a new national vision.
“The coronavirus will unlikely be eliminated completely,” he said. “We must create a new vision for the nation, by turning the hardships into an opportunity.”
The new group hopes to release an interim report on Aug. 27 and compile a final proposal by the end of this year, he said.
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