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Despite election defeat, no sign of replacing Suga before Lower House election

By Nobira Yuichi and Narazaki Takashi, staff writers

 

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, the Liberal Democratic Party has suffered a series of defeats. These include three national elections in April as well as Chiba and Shizuoka gubernatorial elections. There is a growing doubt within the party: “Can we fight another election under Suga?” The dissatisfaction is strongest among younger LDP legislators, who had experienced winning election after election under the former administration, which was marked by the dominance of then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

 

Even in the current dire situation, however, there is no sign of moves to replace Suga. It seems that most LDP lawmakers are resigned to accepting that “there is no other choice but to dissolve the Lower House and face the election under the current prime minister,” according to a senior LDP official.

 

This is because the party had a bitter experience in 2009 of losing power to the Democratic Party of Japan after the LDP replaced the prime minister within a year due to internal strife. “Infighting before an election is optically very bad,” says a veteran LDP member. “It will invite trouble.”  Furthermore, the party lacks a clearly agreed-upon “post-Suga” candidate.

 

By the end of August, the LDP will have to decide whether or not to fight the Lower House election under Suga. The party leadership plans to dissolve the Lower House and campaign for the election in the wake of successful conclusion of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, as inoculation with the COVID-19 vaccines proceed. Suga previously expressed his intention to dissolve the Lower House before the expiration of his term as LDP president at the end of September. He hopes to delay the party presidential election so that a victory in the Lower House election will increase his chance of winning the presidency without a ballot.

 

To respond to Suga’s wishes, the party leadership will have to decide by the end of August whether to extend the term of the party presidency. It is possible that younger members may demand a new LDP president before the Lower House election. “I don’t know if there is a legitimate reason for delaying the party presidential election,” wonders a party source. “A decision rammed through without consent would undermine political equilibrium.”

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