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Japan govt's call to extend New Year holiday raises concerns over plans for snap election

Liberal Democratic Party headquarters is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura's remarks calling for people to take an extended holiday or vacations on a staggered schedule around the New Year to prevent coronavirus infections has caused a stir within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as "it runs the risk of affecting the plan for a dissolution of the House of Representatives."

    Although the first day of the ordinary Diet session, which will be convened next January, is said to be one option for the timing to dissolve Japan's lower house for a snap general election, some LDP members apparently think that extending the holiday to Jan. 11 will make it difficult to achieve. LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai has been attempting to resolve matters by claiming, "The holiday is unrelated to the lower house's dissolution."

    Nishimura met with Nikai at the LDP headquarters on Oct. 27, and said, "I meant in my remarks that I want the public to take staggered holidays, without deeming it as one long holiday until Jan. 11. I came to explain this as I haven't made myself understood."

    On Oct. 23, Nishimura called for people to take an extended holiday or breaks on a staggered schedule around the New Year, following counsel by the national government's expert advisory subcommittee to counter the novel coronavirus. Comments such as "A dissolution at the start of the Diet session is no longer feasible if the holiday will be extended until Jan. 11," have been raised among LDP senior officials.

    A desire to dissolve the House of Representatives early while the Cabinet's approval rating is high has been entrenched in the ruling party. Although less than a year remains for the term of lower house legislators, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has held off dissolving the lower house before the year ends. One possible scenario for a snap election is dissolving the lower house once a third supplementary budget has been enacted during the ordinary Diet session, which will be convened early in the new year. Options for a well-timed dissolution will become more limited if a potential January dissolution is off the table.

    "We will dissolve the lower house when it is necessary, whatever the timing," emphasized Nikai at a press conference on Oct. 27.

    LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama also told reporters, "I'm worried about economic affairs when it comes to next year. It is fundamentally important to draw up the budget quickly, and have it reviewed in the Diet as soon as possible," and acknowledged that it's necessary to convene the Diet session at an early stage.

    (Japanese original by Minami Nomaguchi and Yusuke Mizuwaki, Political News Department)

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