Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga signalled the possibility of calling a snap election if he were to become the country’s next prime minister, the Asahi newspaper reported on Tuesday.
“We’d like to contain the pandemic and make this happen,” Suga was quoted as saying in an interview by Asahi. “There are various, extraordinary merits for Japan to host the Games.”
He also said the views of pandemic experts were important in judging whether COVID-19 was slowing down enough for the next prime minister to call a snap election, according to Asahi.
“There’s no change to my stance as chief cabinet minister that what the public wants from the government most is to focus on measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic,” Suga was quoted as saying.
“But the prime minister has the right to dissolve parliament (and call a snap election). If the next premier decides to call one, that should be the case. If not, it won’t happen,” he said.
Suga is widely expected to win the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election on Sept. 14, a date set after Abe’s decision to step down last month due to a flareup of his chronic intestinal illness.
The winner is virtually assured of becoming premier because of the LDP’s parliamentary majority.
Markets have been rife with speculation that Suga, upon becoming prime minister, may call a snap election to solidify his political grip..That speculation got a boost after opinion polls showed a jump in voter approval of Suga and of Abe’s achievements.
The LDP leadership race among Suga and two rivals – former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida – kicks off formally on Tuesday.But Suga, chief cabinet secretary since December 2012, has already locked in support from most of the party’s factions.
The 71-year-old is expected to pursue his boss’s signature “Abenomics” policies of hyper-easy monetary policy and government spending as Japan grapples with the twin challenges of a coronavirus outbreak and reviving the virus-hit economy.
Suga, who has little diplomatic experience, will also confront a range of geopolitical challenges including building ties with the winner of the U.S. presidential election and tensions with China over its maritime assertiveness.