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Suga-Abe meeting fuel speculation over Lower House breakup

Tokyo, March 29 (Jiji Press)–Speculation over a possible dissolution of the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for a snap general election increased after he held a meeting with his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, for some 50 minutes on Monday.


Following their first one-on-one meeting since October last year, some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said that Suga and Abe may have exchanged opinions on a Lower House breakup, among other topics.


But both Suga and Abe said that the meeting was part of preparations for the prime minister’s visit to the United States, seen starting on April 8.


“The government’s fiscal 2021 budget was enacted last week, and I will visit the United States next month, so I met with former Prime Minister Abe, who was in the post for some eight years, to exchange opinions on domestic politics and diplomacy,” Suga told reporters after the session.


The meeting was “very meaningful,” Suga said, while avoiding an answer to a question about whether he and Abe discussed a Lower House election.


The previous one-on-one meeting between the two took place on Oct. 1, 2020, in which Suga, who succeeded Abe as prime minister in mid-September, sought advice from the predecessor on summit diplomacy in the run-up to his visit to Southeast Asia, his first overseas trip as the leader of the East Asian country.


With Monday’s meeting held ahead of Suga’s planned visit to the United States for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, a senior LDP official said that Suga and Abe chiefly discussed the Japan-U.S. relationship.


Still, speculation over a Lower House breakup is increasing as the talks were a lot longer than the October meeting, which lasted only 10 minutes. In addition, Suga clearly said he and Abe this time exchanged opinions on “domestic politics,” along with other issues.


Suga apparently aims to consolidate his political foothold ahead of the expiration at the end of September of his term of office as LDP president and the Lower House election to be held by autumn. The term of office for current Lower House members is set to end on Oct. 21.


With Abe effectively heading the LDP’s largest faction, Suga apparently intended to demonstrate his favorable relationship with his predecessor through their latest meeting, sources familiar with the situation said.


A middle-ranking LDP lawmaker said that Suga and Abe probably discussed a timing for dissolving the Lower House as the former is eager to seek cooperation from the latter.


In a related move, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told a press conference Monday that he would advise Suga to break up the Lower House immediately if the opposition camp submits a no-confidence motion against his cabinet during the current regular Diet session through June 16.


In a television program Sunday, Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said that the party is eager to prepare for the submission of a no-confidence motion against the Suga cabinet.

In response to the remark, Nikai stressed that the ruling coalition is ready for a Lower House dissolution.


CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters Monday, “If the prime minister can dissolve the Lower House for a general election under the current coronavirus infection situation and economic condition, regardless of whether the opposition side will submit a no-confidence motion, we will always stand ready for the move.”

Meanwhile, Nikai showed his support for Suga’s re-election as LDP president if he decides to run in a party leadership poll to be held ahead of the expiration of his current term of office as LDP head. Suga is “doing a fantastic job on the back of trust from the public,” Nikai said.

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