The government is considering convening an extraordinary session of the Diet on Oct. 4 to choose Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's successor, sources said Tuesday as the race among hopefuls in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party heated up.
The winner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's leadership race on Sept. 29 is set to be voted in as the party and its junior coalition partner Komeito control the powerful House of Representatives.
Suga abruptly announced his resignation last week after less than a year in office, amid mounting criticism over his COVID-19 response.
If the extraordinary session is called on Oct. 4 and the new prime minister delivers a policy speech in the same week, as is customary, with questioning from opposition leaders the following week, the upcoming general election could be held as early as Nov. 7.
Former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, first to announce his bid to run, released his economic policies for the presidential election Wednesday, vowing to boost people's income and narrow disparities through redistribution of wealth in the post-pandemic era.
The election is now expected to be a three-way contest between Kishida, former communications minister Sanae Takaichi and vaccine chief Taro Kono.
Takaichi is believed to have secured the prerequisite endorsement from 20 lawmakers with the help of former Prime Minister Abe, under whom she served as minister of internal affairs and communications as well as LDP policy chief.
Kono, who is expected to announce his bid later this week, visited Abe on Wednesday. They are believed to have talked about the presidential race.
Meanwhile, four opposition parties including the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan agreed on a set of joint pledges on Wednesday, including lowering the consumption tax rate and achieving a zero-carbon society without nuclear energy.
The CDP, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi also vowed to raise the minimum wage, give couples the option of keeping separate surnames after marriage and oppose amending the Constitution.
The CDP unveiled its campaign pledges for the general election on Tuesday, vowing to draw up a supplementary budget worth at least ¥30 trillion ($270 billion) to support people and businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
If voted into power, the CDP will also create a new team answering directly to the prime minister to steer the government's COVID-19 response, leader Yukio Edano told a news conference.
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