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With the COVID-19 pandemic challenging leaders worldwide to strike a balance between public health and the economy, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga seems to hold the view that any cure involving a loss of economic momentum would be worse than the disease itself, reports Satoshi Sugiyama.

Suga — keen to champion economic recovery — is resisting completely dialing back the Go To tourism programs he helped engineer, with an eye on prospects for the Olympics and the possibility of a snap election on the horizon.

This is taking a toll, with the new leader’s support rate slipping for the second straight month, to 58% — a new low — in a survey carried out late last month. About 48% of respondents said they disapproved of his government’s handling of the virus, up from 35% a month earlier.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (right) and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister leading the government’s virus response, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Nov. 24  | KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (right) and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister leading the government’s virus response, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Nov. 24 | KYODO

In the face of the COVID-19 resurgence, Suga is highly unlikely to dissolve the House of Representatives in January, Jiji reports, citing informed sources.

Suga has said that he would look at experts’ assessments on the infection situation when deciding the timing for any dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election. But for now, those close to him say he can’t escape criticism if he were to dissolve it under the current circumstances.

Suga is expected to face a grilling by opposition parties in the Diet over controversial issues, including the government’s past cherry blossom-viewing parties hosted by his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. With Tokyo prosecutors now investigating, that scandal has resurfaced and also risks damaging the Suga administration, reports Eric Johnston in an explainer on the issue.

If Suga gives up on a Lower House dissolution in January, the next possible opportunity to break up the all-important lower chamber would be sometime from April to July, after the passage of the fiscal 2021 budget, or in September or October, after the end of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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