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Editorial: Japan PM Suga appears unable to course correct despite election losses

Following ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) defeats in three local elections in Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has stated repeatedly that he wants to "correct points that should be corrected."

    But he hasn't said clearly what he's reflecting on or going to change. The way things are, it looks difficult for the Suga administration to change.

    On April 26, the day after the polls, Suga said to a group of reporters: "I humbly accept the people's judgment." But the focus of these electoral contests, questions concerning the relationship between politics and money, was, as ever, left unanswered.

    For instance, large-scale vote buying was behind House of Councillors polls being run again in Hiroshima Prefecture. A convincing explanation has yet to come concerning even the way that some 150 million yen (about $1.38 million) provided by LDP headquarters to candidates was used.

    When asked about these issues, the prime minister wore an irritated expression as he said, "I've said this how many times," and then went on to provide the same explanation as he has up to now: "The documents have been confiscated (by the relevant authorities)."

    When considering these responses and his statements in the National Diet, it seems that Suga's insincere behavior has led to failures with the electorate. This is the first thing he needs to correct.

    The prime minister appears to want to increase buoyancy for his administration by expediting vaccinations -- which is hoped to be the government's ace in the hole -- and holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games as planned this summer.

    But vaccinations are delayed; Japan's current rate of inoculations puts it at the very bottom of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's 37 member states.

    Regarding the staging of the Olympics, Suga has maintained that "The International Olympic Committee decides whether to hold the games." Isn't this just another way for him to avoid taking responsibility?

    It has also emerged that the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has requested the Japanese Nursing Association secure 500 nurses to support athletes and other participants with coronavirus prevention measures during the games.

    It's only natural that, with the medical system under strain, that more and more distrustful voices ask whether the priority is the Olympics or the people's lives.

    Within the LDP, some are already expressing concern that they may not be able to fight in the next House of Representatives elections under Prime Minister Suga. But there are almost no lawmakers coming out publicly to question Suga's accountability. A straitened atmosphere, in which no one can speak freely, remains unchanged.

    We are concerned that the government's response to the losses will be to move even further away from conventional politics.

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