In surprise move, Japan PM to call October 31 election – NHK

Japan's incoming Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who will formally take office on Monday, October 4, is set to dissolve parliament next week and call an election for October 31, public broadcaster NHK said.

The surprise move, amid widespread expectations for a poll in November, appears to be aimed at exploiting a traditional honeymoon period accorded to new governments and a sharp drop in the number of coronavirus infections.

Outgoing prime minister Yoshihide Suga enjoyed support ratings of about 70% soon after taking office about a year ago, but was pummelled by criticism of his handling of the pandemic, leading him to make way for a new face to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) through the election.

Kishida, 64, a former foreign minister with an image as a low-key consensus builder, beat out three contenders last week to lead the party and will become prime minister as it has a majority in parliament.

He is set to dissolve parliament on October 14 and will announce the election in his first news conference as prime minister later on Monday, NHK television said.

"Kishida's not wasting any time at all," Tobias Harris, a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress, said on Twitter.

"October 31 puts the opposition on its heels, takes advantage of a honeymoon in the polls, plus a better chance of lower case numbers."

Harris added, "If he wins comfortably in the general election and can hold things together well enough to win the upper house elections next year, he'll have up to three years without an election." – Rappler.com