• Kyodo, Jiji

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The Diet will elect a new prime minister on Oct. 4 at an extraordinary session, according to a Cabinet decision Tuesday, meaning a general election is likely to be held in November and that Lower House members’ terms will expire for the first time in postwar history.

To hold the election before members’ terms end on Oct. 21, campaigning needs to start Oct. 5 for voting on Oct. 17 at the latest. But given that the new prime minister needs to appoint Cabinet members and is likely to deliver a policy speech, that schedule is not certain to be met.

Whoever is elected in the Sept. 29 presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is certain to be endorsed in the Diet as the successor to outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as the LDP controls the powerful House of Representatives.

The LDP leadership race is between vaccine czar Taro Kono, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi and the LDP’s Deputy Secretary-General Seiko Noda.

The new prime minister will establish a new Cabinet on the same day as the Diet vote on Oct. 4, but will decide on deputy ministers and other personnel later. Although whether to make a policy speech and hold a question and answer session with opposition parties is up to the new prime minister, all four candidates have suggested they would do so.

Given such a scenario, the most likely schedules for a general election are to start campaigning on Oct. 26 for an election on Nov. 7 or begin campaigning on Nov. 2 for voting on Nov. 14.

Suga announced earlier this month his intention to step down amid mounting criticism of his government’s coronavirus response.

Before his term as LDP president ends on Sept. 30, Suga will visit the United States from Thursday through Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato announced Tuesday.

During the visit, Suga is slated to attend a “Quad” summit between the two countries plus Australia and India in Washington on Friday. He is also expected to hold a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

The Quad summit is expected to cover COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and measures against climate change while affirming the four countries’ eagerness to beef up their cooperation to counter China.

“We aim to promote our free and open Indo-Pacific vision through candid summit-level talks on common challenges facing the region, including the fight against the coronavirus,” Kato said at a news conference.

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