• Jiji


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has agreed to decide the date of its next presidential election at a meeting on Aug. 26.

The agreement was made at the first meeting of the party’s presidential election committee, held Tuesday as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to reach the end of his term as LDP president Sept. 30.

Previously, Suga was widely expected to dissolve the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, in early September for a snap election. The scenario was that Suga would manage to lead his party to an election victory, paving the way for his re-election as LDP leader.

But some LDP executives are leaning toward the idea of holding the party poll ahead of the Lower House election, which will be held by autumn regardless of whether the chamber is dissolved.

At a meeting of party executives that included Suga on Tuesday, Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai reported the establishment of the presidential election committee.

He also said that the new president would be elected by votes from LDP lawmakers, other party members and LDP supporters in accordance with the party’s constitution.

“It is important to move things forward calmly,” Nikai told a news conference later, indicating that the party election would be held in late September as usual.

There are “strong calls (for Suga) to stay on among members of the public and the party,” Nikai added. “The election is unlikely to have more than one candidate. It is very likely the incumbent will be re-elected.”

“Suga should announce the Lower House dissolution as soon as securing re-election by default,” a source close to Nikai said.

At the first meeting of the election committee, former home affairs minister Takeshi Noda was named chairman. There was no discussion on the schedules for the party and Lower House elections, sources said.

LDP executives are considering whether to hold the party poll before the general election because Suga is likely to be re-elected no matter whether he has any challenger.

In addition, with COVID-19 cases surging, it is not at all a situation that allows dissolution of the all-important lower chamber in September, said a senior member of the LDP’s faction led by Wataru Takeshita.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, the LDP’s partner in the ruling coalition, met with Suga at the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday.

After the meeting, Yamaguchi told reporters that he couldn’t say when the Lower House election would be held.

At a meeting of the LDP Policy Research Council Board, some participants called for the party leadership poll to be held ahead of the general election.

Meanwhile, sources said some former Cabinet members are aiming to run in the party election.

It is also uncertain whether Suga’s two contenders in the previous poll last year, former policy leader Fumio Kishida and former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, will join the race.

Surveys by media outlets show public support ratings for Suga’s Cabinet have fallen to their lowest levels since his inauguration in September last year.

Some LDP members, especially younger ones, may start moves to put up rival candidates if they conclude that they cannot fight the general election under Suga.

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