Japan dissolves parliament, setting stage for general election

Japan dissolved its parliament yesterday, setting the stage for an election at the end of the month.

Japan dissolved its parliament yesterday, setting the stage for an election at the end of the month that will pit new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida against an unpopular opposition in a battle over who can better fix the pandemic-battered economy.

Kishida enjoys reasonable public support 11 days into the job, polls show, boding well for his goal of maintaining a lower house majority for his Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito party coalition partner.

A recent Sankei newspaper poll showed that about 48 percent of respondents want the new administration to work on the coronavirus as its No.1 priority, followed by economic recovery and employment.

Kishida's party is promoting his push for coronavirus measures including supplying an oral antiviral medication this year, as well as his vision of realizing a "new capitalism" that focuses on economic growth and a redistribution of wealth.

"We'll do everything we can to tackle the coronavirus," Kishida said at a news conference, reiterating government plans to start administering booster shots from December and pledging to strengthen Japan's hospitals and its testing capacity.

Kishida also stressed the need to help the economy recover from the pandemic and said it would be his highest priority to deliver a stimulus package worth "several tens of trillions of yen."

He highlighted the need for the private and public sector to work together on revitalizing the economy. "In order to achieve strong economic growth, it's not enough to rely just on market competition. That won't deliver the fruits of growth to the broader population," Kishida said.

He laid out the details of the package, such as spending to promote domestic development and production of vaccines and COVID-19 drugs, as well as support for Taiwan chip giant TSMC's planned new factory construction in Japan.

Kishida has created a new ministry of economic security with China in mind, aiming to better protect sensitive technologies, prevent cybercrime, secure supplies of rare earth metals and help companies diversify their supply chains.

The government will also begin preparations to restart a popular subsidized travel scheme, aimed at hotels and travel agencies hit by the pandemic that was suspended late last year. The ruling party has also called for a sharp increase in defense spending to acquire the capability to destroy ballistic missiles.

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