Main ruling party moves toward leadership race

The Liberal Democratic Party is the senior partner in Japan's ruling coalition, and its lawmakers are gearing up for a leadership election later this month.

Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide hopes to be re-elected. He plans to change party executives and the Cabinet next week to lay the groundwork.

Suga met LDP Secretary-General Nikai Toshihiro Thursday and expressed his intention to run.

They're thought to have discussed how party executives should be changed...including who should replace Nikai.

One challenger for the party leadership is former foreign minister Kishida Fumio.
He announced proposals for tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Kishida said, "We should conduct crisis management on the constant assumption that the worst will happen, rather than guessing the situation will probably improve. I want to get back to near-normal socioeconomic activity at the beginning of next year."

Kishida says he would set up temporary hospitals so nobody would have to wait to be hospitalized.

He also suggested creating a government agency that would specialize in health crisis management.

Anyone who wants to run for the leadership needs backing from 20 party lawmakers.

Former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae seems confident she can get it.

Takaichi said, "I absolutely won't give up until the end."

The Liberal Democratic Party has seven factions. One has decided to support Suga as a group.

Members of a faction led by Kishida have united behind him.

Other factions are holding meetings to hear opinions from members before deciding what to do as groups.

Meanwhile, the opposition bloc is pushing the governing parties to convene an extraordinary Diet session to debate ways to deal with the pandemic.

They wanted to draw up a supplementary budget, but the governing coalition refused.

The Constitutional Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Azumi Jun said, "We conveyed our concern about LDP lawmakers making a fuss over the leadership election and their own issues in this dire coronavirus situation. They bear heavy responsibility for creating political stagnation and not doing enough to deal with infections."

LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Moriyama Hiroshi said, "I will convey these requests to the Cabinet and the party executives."

The term of office for members of the Lower House ends on October 21st. So a general election is also coming.

LDP lawmakers are concerned they'll have a tough fight as the Cabinet's public approval ratings have tumbled.
The prime minister has the option of calling a snap general election and postponing the LDP leadership race.
But he says now is not the time to dissolve the chamber. He says the top priority is tackling the coronavirus.