Japanese PM Suga denies reports of dissolving Parliament in mid-September

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been involved in tense negotiations and sudden twists to stay in the top job. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Wednesday (Sept 1) that he had no plans to dissolve the country's Lower House because of the severity of the coronavirus situation.

Domestic media reported this week that he intended to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament in mid-September after a Cabinet reshuffle next week. Reports also said that the Premier was considering holding the general election on Oct 17.

Mr Suga's denial of these reports comes after several days of tense negotiations and sudden twists involving Mr Suga and the most powerful politicians in the ruling camp as the unpopular prime minister manoeuvres to stay in the top job.

"We can't dissolve the Lower House in this current situation," said Mr Suga, speaking of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked whether that meant he would let members of the Lower House of Parliament serve their full terms, which end Oct 21, Mr Suga avoided a direct answer.

"There are no plans to push back the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election, and we will work around the dates available for the general election," he said. The LDP leadership race is slated to be held on Sept 29.

On Tuesday, media outlets said Mr Suga planned to remove long-term party ally and current LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai from his post.

Mr Nikai threw his backing behind Mr Suga and helped him win the top post in the turmoil to succeed former premier Shinzo Abe last September.

But some parliamentarians have voiced their unease with the amount of power wielded by 82-year-old Mr Nikai, who has held his post since August 2016 - the longest in the party's history.

Support for Mr Suga has hit record lows recently, with approval ratings dipping to 26 per cent, according to a Mainichi newspaper poll published late last week. The Nikkei daily put his ratings at 34 per cent, in line with a record low hit in its survey last month.

His support ratings have fallen in part because he failed to capitalise on delivering the Olympics amid a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

The government has since declared a fourth state of emergency in most of Japan.

The LDP and its allies are not expected to lose their coalition majority in the powerful Lower House in the next general election, but forecasts suggest that the party could lose its outright majority, an outcome that would weaken the LDP leader.

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