Japan PM Suga seen holding off on calling snap election this year: Media

The move would reflect Suga's intention to focus on measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The move would reflect Suga's intention to focus on measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to hold off calling a snap election this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the economy, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Thursday (Oct 1). 

Such a decision would reflect Suga’s intention to focus on measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and cushion the economic blow from the pandemic, several government and ruling party lawmakers said, according to the paper. 

Public opinion polls have shown strong support for Suga since he took office two weeks ago, prompting speculation that he could take advantage of it and call a snap election soon.  

Suga won the leadership race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last month, taking over as prime minister after Shinzo Abe resigned citing health reasons. 

A lower house election does not have to be held until October 2021. 

In an interview with the Nikkei business daily published on Thursday, LDP heavyweight and Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai also quashed speculation of an early general election. 

“There are serious issues before us right now,” he was quoted as saying. “The prime minister has made the right decision to focus on resolving those problems.” 

Separately, Japan will consider compiling a “large-scale, bold” additional fiscal stimulus package to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, Nikai was quoted as saying by the Nikkei. 
 
Nikai said the government could compile a third extra budget to fund part of the package, the paper reported on Thursday.

 “We’ve already taken ample measures to support firms under a second extra budget. But we’ll take bold, additional steps if necessary,” Nikai was quoted as saying.  

Nikai said the party has not received specific requests for help from industries whose profits have been hit by the pandemic, such as carmakers and airlines, saying it was up to each sector to decide whether companies need to consolidate to stay afloat. 

“We’d like to take effective measures to support the economy as a whole,” Nikai said.

 “If the industries reach a decision (to consolidate), the party can consider whether assisting them would be appropriate,” he said. 

Japan has so far spent 234 trillion yen (S$3.03 trillion) – about 40 per cent of its gross domestic product – in two stimulus packages deployed to ease the economic pain from the pandemic.