Eugene Hoshiko / AP
TOKYO – Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dissolved the lower house of parliament on Thursday, paving the way for elections on October 31, which will be Japan’s first of the pandemic.
At stake will be how Japan faces a potential resurgence of coronavirus and revives its battered economy, and whether or how the Kishida government can leave the shadow of the nearly nine years of Abe-Suga rule that some describe as dominant to the mouthed different views.
Kishida said he is seeking a mandate for his policies after being elected prime minister by parliament just 10 days ago.
He replaced Yoshihide Suga, who lasted just one year as prime minister and whose support was beaten by his perceived high-handed approach to dealing with coronavirus and the insistence on holding the Olympics in Tokyo despite rising virus cases.
Kishida, tasked with rallying support for the ruling party, has vowed to pursue policies of “trust and empathy”.
Tadamori Oshima, Speaker of the House, announced the dissolution at a plenary session. The 465 lawmakers in the more powerful lower chamber stood up, shouted “banzai” three times and left. The official campaign for all 465 newly vacancies begins on Tuesday.
The last lower house election was held in 2017 under Shinzo Abe, a staunch Conservative who pulled the long-running Conservative Liberal Democratic Party further to the right while serving as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
In the previous lower house vote, the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito won a total of 310 seats or two-thirds of the House.
Four main opposition parties agree to cooperate on some policies, such as resolving gaps between rich and poor, which they say have widened under Abe’s government and exacerbated by the pandemic.
Despite weaker public support for the LDP under Suga, opposition parties have struggled to win enough votes to form a new government following the short rule of the now defunct Democratic Party of Japan in 2009-2012.
Earlier on Friday, Kishida visited offices of senior LDP members and expressed his determination for an election victory.
In her first political speech last week, Kishida promised to strengthen the country’s pandemic response, revive the economy and strengthen its defense against threats from China and North Korea. He also sought to gradually expand social and economic activities by using vaccination certificates and more tests.
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