Japan’s new PM Kishida to dissolve lower house for general election


Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to dissolve the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon for a general election at the end of this month as he seeks a public mandate for the new government launched just last week.

The election will be held on Oct. 31 after the four-year term of lower house members expires on Oct. 21, with the Liberal Democratic Party headed by Kishida hoping to capitalize on a recent lull in COVID-19 cases, while opposition leaders are still scrambling to create a united front.

It is the first time in Japan’s postwar history that a general election will be held after the term has expired, and the period between the dissolution of the lower house and voting day will be the shortest.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters in Tokyo on Oct. 14, 2021. (Kyodo)

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Kishida won the ruling party’s presidential election on Sept. 29 and was chosen as prime minister on Oct. 4 in parliament controlled by the LDP-led coalition.

The general election will be a chance for Kishida to secure wider public support for his policies focusing on reviving the world’s third-largest economy which has been battered by the pandemic and enhancing its coronavirus response.

Kishida, advocating what he calls a “new capitalism,” has promised to roll out an economic package worth “tens of trillions of yen” and redistribute the fruits of growth in an attempt to build a stronger middle class. But he has emphasized in recent days that Japan needs to first achieve an economic expansion.

Kishida said he is also committed to bolstering the government’s response to COVID-19 while laying out plans for a review of security strategy and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of an increasingly assertive China and missile threats from North Korea.

Besides such policies, he has emphasized being accountable to the public and restoring trust, apparently reflecting criticism over the communication shortcomings of his predecessor Yoshihide Suga.

The approval rating for Kishida’s Cabinet shortly after its launch stood at 55.7 percent in a Kyodo News survey, short of the 66.4 percent for Suga’s upon its formation in September last year.

The lackluster rating might reflect some of the public’s disappointment after Taro Kono was defeated by Kishida in the LDP leadership election despite the former vaccination minister having persistently ranked top in opinion polls on who would be most fit for the next prime minister.

It remains uncertain whether Kishida can bring about a change as key posts to his Cabinet were given to those with close ties to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, suggesting that a radical policy shift from administrations in the recent past is unlikely.

Kishida’s pledge to reduce wealth disparities has already come into question after he backed down on his plan to consider raising the rate of capital gains tax.

The main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, has stressed that Japan will not be able to achieve steady economic growth and poverty reduction if there is no redistribution of wealth first.

The party is vowing to increase taxes on rich individuals and large companies while easing the burden on lower- and middle-income households.

The CDPJ is calling for a temporary lowering of the consumption tax from the current 10 percent to 5 percent and effectively exempting people who earn less than about 10 million yen annually from paying income tax.

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