The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will step up preparations for a leadership election ahead of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's term as LDP president expiring on Sept. 30.
The party plans to launch an election management committee that will hold its first meeting as early as next week, according to LDP executives.
The 11-member committee needs to release an election schedule by the end of August, according to party rules.
Suga apparently hopes that the election will be held after a poll for the House of Representatives to ensure that he is re-elected, while some LDP members want the opposite.
The committee is expected to decide on an LDP election schedule at the second meeting likely to take place in late August.
An election for the Lower House has to take place in the autumn as the term of its members expires on Oct. 21.
Suga is believed to tout the success of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to bring the LDP to victory in the Lower House election.
A win in the Lower House poll is expected to help Suga win an LDP leadership race uncontested.
To this end, Suga is expected to seek a short-term extension of his tenure as LDP president, in order to delay the leadership race. An extension needs to be approved by a joint meeting of LDP members from both parliamentary chambers.
But it is unclear whether things will go as he plans. The Suga Cabinet's public approval ratings have hit record lows.
Some LDP members want someone to replace Suga as party chief before the Lower House election, as they believe that they cannot contest the general election well under his leadership.
Suga also faces growing pressure from a surge in COVID-19 infections.
If Suga fails to extend his term of office, he may dissolve the Lower House after the LDP election committee decides on a leadership election schedule. Under this scenario, the LDP race would be suspended.
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