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Parliament may be dissolved soon, says Japan's Finance Minister

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Mr Aso says elections may "very well be soon". Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga is widely tipped to be elected PM this week.

Tokyo

JAPAN'S Finance Minister Taro Aso said parliament's lower house could be dissolved shortly and elections may "very well be soon", to avoid the next administration from being criticised for not being voted in, Kyodo News reported.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga is widely expected to be elected prime minister this week to replace Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down because of an illness. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership election is due to be held on Monday to pick a successor to Mr Abe.

Mr Aso, a former premier, said the timing on when to call elections is "very important", Kyodo reported. He was referring to the period in September 2008 when he was elected prime minister and wanted to dissolve parliament but couldn't due to the global financial crisis, it said.

A general election must be called by October of next year.

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Speculation is mounting that Mr Suga, who has seen his popularity rise in opinion polls since announcing his bid for the top job, may call a general election as early as next month to improve his chances of winning a full three-year term as LDP leader in a party election that must be held in September 2021.

But he gave little clue to whether that was likely. "What the people want is proper coronavirus policies and revitalisation of the economy," he said. "But it (whether to call a snap election) is up to the next prime minister."

Mr Suga instead touched on the economy, repeating that Japan must focus on reviving the economy before considering ways to fix its tattered finances, ruling out another rise in the national sales hike for a decade.

"If economic woes deepen, we will do whatever it takes and deploy further steps to protect jobs and businesses," Mr Suga said.

"Given current economic circumstances, the government will take such measures if necessary," he said, when asked whether he would give additional payouts to households and companies suffering from shrinking income due to the pandemic. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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