Japan's parliament will elect a new prime minister on Oct. 4 at an extraordinary session, according to a Cabinet decision Tuesday, meaning a general election is likely to be held in November, coming after lower house members' terms expire for the first time in postwar history.
To hold the election before the members' terms end on Oct. 21, campaigning needs to start on Oct. 5 for voting on Oct. 17 at the latest. But given the new prime minister needs to appoint Cabinet members and is likely to deliver a policy speech, Japan is certain not to meet those schedules.
Whoever elected in the Sept. 29 presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is expected to be endorsed in the Diet as the successor of outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as the LDP controls the powerful House of Representatives.
The race is between vaccination minister Taro Kono, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, former communications minister Sanae Takaichi and the LDP's executive acting secretary general Seiko Noda.
The new prime minister will launch a new Cabinet on the same day and decide on deputy ministers and other personnel later. Although whether to make a policy speech and hold a question and answer session with opposition parties is up to the new premier, all four have suggested they would do so.
Given such a scenario, the most likely two schedules are to start campaigning on Oct. 26 for an election on Nov. 7 or campaigning on Nov. 2 for voting on Nov. 14.
The decision by the Cabinet to convene the Diet for the vote comes after the government had put off calls in July by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other opposition parties to hold an extraordinary session to discuss the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suga announced earlier this month his intention not to seek a second term as party leader amid mounting criticism of his government's coronavirus response. He had been serving the remaining term of his predecessor Shinzo Abe, who abruptly resigned in September last year for health reasons, with his term as LDP president set to expire on Sept. 30.
As one of his last missions during his tenure, the Japanese government said Tuesday that Suga will visit the United States from Thursday through Sunday to attend the first in-person Quad summit.
Its members -- the United States, Japan, Australia and India -- are expected to discuss their ties to counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, told a press conference a bilateral meeting between Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden is being arranged.