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Lower House dissolution in Sept. seen as difficult

Tokyo, Aug. 18 (Jiji Press)–Dissolution of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Japan’s parliament, in September is increasingly seen as difficult amid the rapid spread of novel coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga apparently hopes to dissolve the all-important chamber in September for a snap election. Effectively, however, he is unable to take the step until Sept. 12, the new expiration date for the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures.

Later in the month, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to hold its leadership election, with Suga scheduled to reach the end of his term as party president Sept. 30.

Suga apparently hopes to retain the option of dissolving the Lower House next month. If the coronavirus situation fails to improve, however, he will have to survive the party election before calling the general election.

Asked about the timing of a Lower House dissolution at a press conference Tuesday, Suga admitted he “must choose from a decreasing number of options.”

On the possibility of running for the LDP presidential election, he said, “As a matter of course, I’m ready to do so when the time comes.”

With the term of the Lower House members set to expire Oct. 21, Suga created a scenario for dissolving the chamber after the Tokyo Paralympic Games end on Sept. 5, aiming for an easy victory in the LDP poll after winning the general election.

At a meeting Aug. 26, the LDP’s election committee is slated to decide the schedule for its election, which is widely expected to take place Sept. 29 after candidacy filings Sept. 17.

If the Lower House is dissolved before the candidacy filings, the party election would be held after the general election.

Suga’s scenario was based on the assumption that the COVID-19 state of emergency would be lifted Aug. 31 as previously planned, after the coronavirus situation improves to a certain level.

Following Tuesday’s decision to extend the emergency and newly add prefectures covered by the measure, however, a senior LDP official said, “There will be no (Lower House) dissolution until Sept. 12.”

A senior member of Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the LDP, also said, “It will be hard to carry out the dissolution while the emergency is in place.”

According to a government official, Suga himself decided to extend the emergency until Sept. 12, apparently to secure time to dissolve the Lower House before the candidacy filings for the LDP poll.

“There is still the option to dissolve the Lower House in September,” said an official close to the prime minister.

But the possibility will effectively disappear if the COVID-19 state of emergency is extended again, beyond Sept. 12.

With media opinion polls showing public support for Suga’s cabinet declining to the lowest levels since his inauguration in September last year, LDP members are increasingly calling for holding the party poll before the general election.

The LDP’s Niigata prefectural chapter made such a request to the party leadership amid lingering worries about having Suga as the face of the party at the general election.

If a candidate supported by Suga loses Sunday’s mayoral election in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, calls may grow for replacing the prime minister before the general election.

If the Lower House dissolution comes in September, the general election would likely take place Oct. 10 or 17. But if the LDP race precedes the Lower House election, it would be technically possible to hold the general election after the term of Lower House lawmakers expires.

With the coronavirus crisis unrelenting, some LDP members favor such a schedule.

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