TOKYO, Sept 1 — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters today yesterday that he had no plans to dissolve the country’s lower house because of the severity of the coronavirus situation.
Domestic media reported this week that he intended to dissolve the lower house of parliament in mid-September after a cabinet and party executive reshuffle next week. Reports also said that the premier was considering holding the general election on October 17.
Suga’s denial of these reports comes after several days of tense negotiations and sudden twists involving Suga and the most powerful politicians in the ruling camp as the unpopular prime minister manoeuvres to stay in the top job.
“We can’t dissolve the lower house in this current situation,” said Suga, speaking of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked whether that meant he would let members of the lower house of parliament serve their full terms, which end October 21, Suga avoided a direct answer.
“There are no plans to push back the Liberal Democratic Party leadership election, and we will work around the dates available for the general election,” he said. The LDP leadership race is slated to be held on September 29.
Yesterday, media said Suga planned to remove long-term party ally and current LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai from his post. Nikai threw his backing behind Suga and helped him win the top post in the turmoil to succeed former premier Shinzo Abe last September.
But some parliamentarians have voiced their unease with the amount of power wielded by 82-year-old Nikai, who has held his post since August 2016 — the longest in the party’s history.
Suga’s support ratings are at record lows, as he failed to capitalise on delivering the Olympics amid a fresh wave of coronavirus infections. The government has since declared a fourth state of emergency in most of Japan.
The LDP and its allies are not expected to lose their coalition majority in the powerful lower house in the next general election, but forecasts suggest that the party could lose its outright majority, an outcome that would weaken the LDP leader. — Reuters