Eugene Hoshiko / AP
TOKYO – New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dissolved the lower house of parliament on Thursday, paving the way for the October 31 elections which will be the first in Japan to fall into the pandemic.
At stake will be how Japan is dealing with a potential coronavirus resurgence and reviving its struggling economy, and whether or how Kishida’s government can overshadow the nearly nine-year Abe-Suga rule that some describe. as dominant to the point of muzzling various opinions.
Kishida said he was seeking a mandate for his policies after being elected prime minister by parliament just 10 days ago.
He replaced Yoshihide Suga, who only lasted a year as prime minister and whose support was undermined by his perceived authoritarian approach to tackling the coronavirus and his insistence on hosting the Tokyo Olympics. despite the increase in virus cases.
Kishida, charged with rallying support for the ruling party, pledged to pursue a policy of “trust and empathy”.
House Speaker Tadamori Oshima announced the dissolution during a plenary session. The 465 deputies of the more powerful lower house stood up, shouted “banzai” three times and left. The official campaign for the 465 newly vacant seats begins on Tuesday.
The last lower house elections were held in 2017 under the leadership of Shinzo Abe, a staunch conservative who has pulled the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party further to the right while being Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
In the previous vote in the lower house, the PLD and its coalition partner New Komeito together won 310 seats, or two-thirds of the chamber.
Four main opposition parties have agreed to cooperate on certain policies, such as narrowing the gaps between rich and poor which they say widened under Abe’s government and worsened by the pandemic.
Despite weaker public support for the PLD under Suga, opposition parties struggled to gain enough votes to form a new government after the brief reign of the former Democratic Party of Japan in 2009-2012.
Kishida earlier Friday visited the offices of high-ranking PLD members and expressed his determination to win the election.
In his first political speech last week, Kishida vowed to strengthen the country’s response to the pandemic, revive the economy and strengthen defenses against threats from China and North Korea. He also sought to gradually expand social and economic activities using vaccination certificates and more tests.