• Jiji

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Some in the government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering convening next year's regular session of the Diet in early January, earlier than in usual years.

Specific dates under consideration for the start of the Diet session include Jan. 8 and Jan. 12, sources familiar with the matter said.

The planned earlier opening would allow the quick enactment of a third supplementary state budget for fiscal 2020 to finance additional measures aimed at cushioning the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, according to the sources.

It also appears that the move is intended to leave room for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to dissolve the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, at the outset of the regular Diet session for a snap general election, putting the opposition on the back foot.

At a meeting Tuesday with Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and LDP Acting Secretary-General Motoo Hayashi, Hiroshi Moriyama, the party's Diet affairs chief, said that he wanted to have a third extra budget enacted early and implement it within January. The three agreed on the need to convene the regular Diet session at an early date.

After the meeting, an LDP executive said, "The Diet session could possibly be convened in the early part of January."

The Diet law stipulates that an annual regular session be convened in January. In and after 2000, the country twice saw a regular Diet session start in early January — on Jan. 5, 2009, under then-Prime Minister Taro Aso and on Jan. 4, 2016, under then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — with a supplementary budget enacted at the start of both sessions. Normally, a regular session begins on Jan. 20 or later.

On the envisioned third extra budget for fiscal 2020, which ends next March, Hiroshige Seko, secretary-general for LDP lawmakers in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, told a news conference Tuesday, "It's important to make money available in society as early as possible to keep the economy from slumping."

The government and the ruling coalition, which also includes Komeito, are hoping that the Diet will begin debates on a full state budget for fiscal 2021 shortly after enacting the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.

According to LDP sources, Suga is planning to visit the Grand Shrines of Ise, a Shinto shrine complex in the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture, on Jan. 4, while aiming to visit the United States after Joe Biden, who is certain to have won the U.S. presidential election, holds a presidential inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20.

On the other hand, some in the LDP said there would be little possibility of Suga dissolving the Lower House at the start of next year's regular Diet session, with the nation apparently starting to see a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, an LDP member who previously served as a Cabinet minister said that the party may be aiming to get the upper hand in managing Diet business by hinting at the possibility of breaking up the Lower House at the beginning of the Diet session.

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