• Jiji


Opposition parties are keeping a nervous eye on the leadership election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party this month after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga opted not to run for re-election.

Opposition parties are worried that voter interest in them may be eroded in the run-up to the upcoming general election due to growing public attention on the LDP contest in the wake of Suga's bombshell announcement Friday.

They are also disappointed that they will be deprived of a chance to compete against a party helmed by the unpopular Suga in the Lower House election, which must be held by the autumn.

"Only LDP members can vote in the party presidential election. As the Lower House election is an opportunity for all members of the public to take part, we will push ahead with our campaigning fairly on the strength of the preparations we have made," Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), told reporters in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, on Saturday.

Suga's decision not to run in the LDP leadership election, set for Sept. 29, is a heavy blow to opposition parties, upending their strategies for the Lower House election.

"A new prime minister tends to get a congratulatory boost (in public support)," an executive of the CDP said. "(The change of prime minister) is a plus for the governing parties."

"Due to the pseudo-change of government taking place within the LDP, there is nothing opposition parties can do," said a senior official of the Democratic Party for the People. "The environment for the Lower House election will change completely."

Opposition parties have repeatedly called for the Lower House election to be held before the terms of current lawmakers run out on Oct. 21. With the prime minister to be replaced, however, the Lower House election is likely to be delayed until after the end of the term.

They now aim to rouse public criticism of the government and ruling coalition by stressing that it is the LDP that is creating a political vacuum with the sudden replacement of prime minister, according to one CDP official.

The CDP is eager to present itself as a viable alternative to the ruling parties by soon unveiling key policy pledges for the election. But the party is growing impatient, as it has no opportunity to grill the government in the Diet, which is currently not in session.

Edano demanded that the incoming prime minister hold a debate with opposition parties in an extraordinary session of the Diet called to designate the new national leader after the LDP election.

"It is unthinkable that the new government will run away without holding a question-and-answer session or a budget committee meeting at the Diet," he said.

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