Kishida Mulls Dissolution While Keeping Eye on Public Opinion

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, is seen before a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is thought to be mulling the timing of an election while closely watching public opinion about a planned economic package.

Speculation is growing that the House of Representatives could be dissolved before the end of the year as the prime minister has recently hinted at the possibility of tax cuts.

Kishida has instructed Cabinet ministers to listen to the public’s dissatisfaction regarding high prices, among other things, and reflect them in the government’s planned economic package.

“I would like you to listen to the voices of the people, and work on the concrete implementation of the measures,” he said to ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Kishida appears to think the economic measures will be the key to boosting the popularity of his administration. With the Cabinet approval rating hovering below the disapproval rating, the prime minister has been trying to seize the initiative.

In October, the government is expected to request the court to issue a dissolution order to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, known as the Unification Church, for failing to answer questions submitted by the government.

Hinting at the possibility of tax cuts Tuesday, Kishida said he would “give the benefits of tax revenue increases to the people.”

Some ruling and opposition party members believe Kishida might dissolve the lower house by the end of the year. Possible options include after the passage of a supplementary budget to fund the planned economic package, or before the budget reaches the Diet but after the finalization of the economic package, to dodge a situation in which opposition parties would likely target the administration in the Diet over the measures.

Kishida has not said when the economic package would be submitted for Diet approval, only that it would happen at the “appropriate time.”

“It is apparent that the prime minister intends to dissolve the lower house before submitting the supplementary budget,” Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said to reporters Tuesday.

Asked by reporters Monday about the submission of the supplementary budget bill and the dissolution of the lower house, the prime minister said: “We will tackle issues that cannot be postponed. At present, I am not thinking of anything else.”

By leaving many possibilities open, Kishida appears to be trying to assess the situation while eying up opportunities to seize the initiative.

However, with the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party facing cash-related political scandals involving Cabinet ministers and party officials, including Ayuko Kato, minister of state for measures for the declining birth rate, and Yuko Obuchi, chairperson of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee, there is no guarantee the Cabinet approval rating will improve.

Because of such issues, there is a strong desire within the LDP to avoid an election. “It is not a good idea to take a risk and dissolve the lower house,” a senior LDP official said.