TOKYO, Japan — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday ruled out dissolving the House of Representatives for a general election anytime soon given Japan’s current severe COVID-19 situation, local media reported.
Suga also said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP’s) leadership race scheduled for Sept. 29 will not be postponed, which he must win in order to stay in power.
His comments came amid expectation by some LDP lawmakers that Suga would dissolve the House of Representatives in mid-September, allowing him to win at least a modest general election victory before facing off against rivals including former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in the party leadership race.
“I’ve said COVID-19 countermeasures are my top priority, and that has not changed at all. Considering the severity of the current situation, dissolving (the House of Representatives) isn’t possible right now,” Suga said.
The current term of members of the lower house of parliament run through Oct. 21, but the prime minister has the power to dissolve the chamber early and call a general election.
As his public support decreased over public’s dissatisfaction with his government’s COVID-19 response, if and when Suga will exercise that option is in focus.
Japan is witnessing its largest wave of infection cases yet, with hospitals struggling to handle a surge in patients with severe symptoms amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
The approval rating for Suga’s Cabinet has dropped to its lowest levels since he came into office last September, as some within his own party questioned his leadership.
Suga is projected to reshuffle LDP executives and his Cabinet early next week, a tactic often utilized in an attempt to bolster public support.