Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration, launched a month ago, appears to be hurrying to develop a list of achievements with the next general election looming in less than a year.
Speaking to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday, Suga indicated his eagerness to produce results.
“What I always keep in mind is that we’ll take action on things that need to be done, promptly and without hesitation,” Suga said. “We’ll also proceed with a reduction in mobile phone rates and other reform items in order of feasibility, so that we can deliver tangible benefits to the people.”
Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party is slated to hold a leadership election in September 2021 and the next House of Representatives election is due to take place by October the same year, at the end of the current term for Lower House members.
“One month has already passed since my Cabinet was launched to work for the people, and I just feel that it was so fast that I’ve had no time to look back,” Suga said. “We face a mountain of various challenges, and we’ll address them one by one in a steady manner, without forgetting our initial objectives.”
Suga’s slogan is to break the “bad habit of following precedents.” Just after he took office, he gave instructions to his Cabinet ministers in charge of his administration’s trademark policies, which include lower mobile phone rates, public health insurance coverage for infertility treatments and the digitalization of administrative procedures.
In the last month, the prime minister has held meetings with private-sector figures including business managers and scholars almost every day with the aim of gathering information on issues from their perspectives.
Suga has told aides that he is different from past prime ministers, who have typically held their first meetings with the chairman of Keidanren, the country’s top business lobby, according to informed sources.
But details of his policies have yet to be set out. Suga has repeatedly said that he aims to create a society based on “self-help, mutual assistance, public support and (social) bonds.”
In diplomacy, where he is relatively inexperienced, Suga is following the path paved by his predecessor Shinzo Abe, including Abe’s policies of deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance and promoting the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
“What is important in diplomacy is to give other countries a sense of security,” an aide to the prime minister said.
It remains to be seen whether the Suga administration can make breakthroughs on diplomatic issues that were stalemates under Abe, including the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago and the territorial row over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan.
Meanwhile, the initial positive sentiment by the public toward the Suga administration is receding after his refusal to appoint six nominees to the Science Council of Japan, leading to backlash over his intervention in the world of academics.
The prime minister has defended the decision, claiming that it came after consideration over whether it was right to follow the precedent of approving SCJ nominees without screening them.
The opposition camp is poised to grill the administration over the issue during an extraordinary session of the Diet set to start on Oct. 26.
Furthermore, a funeral for former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, jointly held by the Cabinet and the LDP on Saturday afternoon, is also expected to be the subject of opposition questions, amid controversy over an education ministry notice urging universities to mourn Nakasone’s death.
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