Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is unlikely to dissolve the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of parliament, for a snap election in April or May, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to roil Japan.
The Suga administration needs to concentrate on its fight against COVID-19 for now after deciding to expand virus pre-emergency measures to include Tokyo and two other prefectures, effective from Monday until early May.
A snap election “definitely will not take place” in the spring, an aide to Suga said.
This means that his snap election options are now limited largely to a period before or after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics from July 23 to Sept. 5.
Japan is scheduled to start coronavirus vaccinations for elderly people Monday. On Friday, Suga is set to become the first foreign leader to have in-person talks with U.S. President Joe Biden since his January inauguration.
Speculation was rife over a possible Lower House dissolution in April or May among members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in anticipation that these events would help lift public support for the Suga Cabinet.
But that speculation has faded as the country grapples with the virus.
The new anti-virus measures are set to continue until May 11 in Tokyo, later than the other prefectures subject to the measures.
In addition, concerns are mounting over a fourth wave of infections.
The government’s plan to get Diet approval for a set of digital transformation bills, a key policy of Suga, will likely be pushed back to mid-May.
There will be no snap election “this season,” a senior LDP member said. “It seems that Suga wants to do what he needs to do now.”
The opposition camp appears to be preparing to submit a no-confidence motion against Suga’s Cabinet during the current Diet session, set to end on June 16.
The ruling bloc warns that such a motion would justify a Lower House dissolution.
An LDP lawmaker close to Suga sees no option other than holding a snap election on the same day as the July 4 Tokyo assembly election.
Meanwhile, there is a persisting view that Suga actually wants to dissolve the lower chamber in the autumn after the Tokyo Games.
Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, does not want “the double election” as it puts priority on the Tokyo assembly poll, a senior LDP member said.
“The atmosphere will change nationwide after the Tokyo Games,” the senior party member also said.
Suga’s term as LDP president expires at the end of September. A Lower House election needs to take place before the terms of the chambers’ current members ends on Oct. 21.
Political circumstances may make it impossible for him to choose his preferred timing, forcing him to make a difficult decision.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.