Japan election set for fall as COVID and Olympics come first

Nikkei -- May 11
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga looks likely to wait until autumn to call an election as the coronavirus outbreak rages on and the opposition gives up on a no-confidence vote that could have forced his hand.

With an election off the table for now, Suga plans to use the next several months to advance vaccinations to bring coronavirus infections under control and host a successful Olympics in hopes of boosting sagging public support.

Suga's domestic success or failure also has major implications for U.S. President Joe Biden's Indo-Pacific strategy as he counts on collaboration with the Quad nations of Japan, India and Australia to advance regional stability.

Suga has been reluctant to dissolve the Diet's lower house for an early general election amid the pandemic but has signaled that a no-confidence motion against his cabinet could spur him to do so.

"I don't think we can hold a general election under the current circumstances," Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, told reporters Monday, referring to the fourth wave of coronavirus infections hitting the country.

Senior officials from Suga's Liberal Democratic Party "have made clear that the lower house will be dissolved if we submit" a no-confidence motion, "so we can't," Edano said.

Submitting a no-confidence motion at the end of the regular Diet session, which ends on June 16 this year, had been an annual ritual of opposition lawmakers until the pandemic. The lower house must be dissolved before its term expires on Oct. 21.

New daily COVID-19 cases topped 7,000 for the first time in four months Saturday. The government just last week extended an emergency declaration in Tokyo and other prefectures through the end of May.

The vaccine is the prime minister's "trump card" not only against the virus, but also for keeping a stable grip on power. Thus the progress of the vaccination campaign will likely determine the timing. - Nikkei