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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to face one or more challengers in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race as he struggles with crumbling support ahead of the general election that must be held by November 28. — Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via Reuters
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to face one or more challengers in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race as he struggles with crumbling support ahead of the general election that must be held by November 28. — Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via Reuters

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TOKYO, Aug 26 ― Japan will likely have a general election in October or later if the ruling party holds its leadership race next month as expected, the Sankei newspaper said today, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to face one or more challengers in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race as he struggles with crumbling support ahead of the general election that must be held by November 28.

Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, 64, was expected to announce his candidacy for the LDP poll on Thursday, when the date of the LDP race is to be decided, domestic media reported.

Suga, 72, took office last September with support around 70 per cent but his approval ratings have sunk below 30 per cent as Japan battles its worst wave of Covid-19 infections and many LDP lawmakers fear for their seats.

Suga has said he plans to seek re-election as LDP president, which would mean remaining prime minister because of the party’s majority in the lower house. The party leadership election is expected to be held on September 29.

LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, who was key to Suga’s victory last year, said on Wednesday he still backs the prime minister. Other party bosses have been publicly silent.

Kishida, a soft-spoken lawmaker from Hiroshima, had been seen as the preferred heir to Shinzo Abe, who stepped down last year as prime minister citing ill health. But Kishida but lost the ensuing party poll after factions coalesced around Suga, who had been Abe’s right-hand man for eight years.

Long-shot contenders to replace Suga include former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, an Abe disciple aiming to become Japan’s first female premier, and conservative ex-education minister Hakubun Shimomura. ― Reuters

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