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Suga’s U.S. trip seen affecting timing of Lower House dissolution

Tokyo, Nov. 10 (Jiji Press)–With Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga looking at visiting the United States for talks with Joe Biden soon after his inauguration as U.S. president on Jan. 20 next year, Suga’s decision on when to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election will likely be affected.

 

The Japanese government and ruling coalition plan to submit a draft third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020, featuring measures to fight the novel coronavirus epidemic, and the fiscal 2021 draft budget to next year’s ordinary session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, to be convened in January.

 

Suga, who needs to call an election for the all-important lower chamber before its members’ term ends in October next year, is said to be considering a dissolution at the start of the ordinary Diet session as one of his options.

 

However, that option may become difficult if Suga visits the United States soon after Biden’s inauguration.

 

If Suga decides to break up the Lower House at the beginning of the ordinary session, the session is likely to be convened in early January and dissolved after dealing with the third extra budget.

 

Some lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are in favor of this option as they want a Lower House election to be held while the public approval rate for Suga’s cabinet remains relatively high. The rate, although lower than figures seen immediately after Suga took office in September, still stands above 50 pct.

 

Noting that Suga’s responses to questions at recent parliamentary Budget Committee meetings were “weak,” an LDP lawmaker who has held a ministerial post said, “It appears difficult for Suga to emerge from the ordinary Diet session unscathed.”

 

However, if the Lower House is dissolved at its onset, the passage of the fiscal 2021 budget is expected to be pushed back to April or later, causing delays in measures to revive the economy battered by the coronavirus crisis.

 

Dissolving the Lower House after Suga’s expected U.S. visit would further push back the schedule for budget deliberations at the Diet.

 

“Common sense says it’s difficult to achieve both a U.S. visit by Suga and a Lower House dissolution at the beginning of the ordinary session,” a long-serving LDP lawmaker said.

 

But LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai denied that an overseas trip by Suga would affect his decision to dissolve the Lower House. “The (prime minister’s) expected U.S. visit and the Lower House dissolution are unrelated,” he told a press conference on Monday.

 

Another problem Suga faces is the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections mainly in Tokyo and Hokkaido, northernmost Japan.

 

Pointing to the possibility that the number of patients suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms may rise once the New Year holidays are over, a middle-ranking LDP lawmaker said, “A general election (early next year) would cause a disaster.”

 

Such a decision “would get the cold shoulder from voters,” a senior party official said.

 

Meanwhile, opposition parties, with their efforts to unify their candidates in Lower House single-seat constituencies remaining slow, have warned against a Lower House dissolution at the start of the ordinary Diet session.

 

Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said, “(The LDP) is playing partisan politics by calling for an early dissolution, knowing that the approval rate is expected to drop once (Suga) is grilled in parliament over his rejection of six nominees to the Science Council of Japan.”

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