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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was initially reluctant to place the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi under the semi-emergency status due to the coronavirus, sources tell Kyodo. He apparently feared the decision would fan criticism that he was too quick to lift the emergency that finally ended in the Tokyo region March 21.

The muddled pandemic response continues to dog Suga. One of his aides had to apologize Friday for inviting 12 lawmakers to the Prime Minister’s Office for lunch, a move slammed not just for sending the wrong message on virus protocols but also for mixing government business with political activity.

Last Tuesday, the health ministry also said it had effectively removed a division chief from his post over a late-night farewell party at a pub in Tokyo that was attended by 23 people from the ministry a week earlier as coronavirus cases continue to rise in many areas.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai apologized Friday for inviting a dozen lawmakers to the Prime Minister's Office for lunch. | KYODO
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai apologized Friday for inviting a dozen lawmakers to the Prime Minister’s Office for lunch. | KYODO

Moving on to another scandal, the Lower House last Thursday rejected an opposition no-confidence motion against communications minister Ryota Takeda over ethics code violations by ministry officials who were treated to lavish dinners by company execs. Though destined to fail, the vote raised tensions between the ruling and opposition camps ahead of by-elections on April 25.

Past scandals involving ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers also refuse to die. Ex-Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who has admitted vote-buying, submitted his letter of resignation to the Diet on March 25, while Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto went on trial over bribery allegations last week.

You might think now would be a bad time to face voters, but LDP heavyweight Toshihiro Nakai warned over the weekend that any opposition no-confidence vote against Suga’s Cabinet would trigger just that. While a long chat recently between PM Suga and his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, raised speculation that a snap election might be in the works, the PM has said no poll is forthcoming.

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