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Japan's lower house rejects Suga Cabinet no-confidence vote

Opposition wants to extend parliamentary session by three months

The Cabinet of Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, surives a no-confidence motion brought against it on June 15.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's ruling coalition voted down a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, deflecting criticism over the government's COVID-19 response and plans to push ahead with the Tokyo Olympics.

Four opposition parties submitted the motion after the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito rejected their demand to extend the current parliamentary session beyond its scheduled end on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other opposition parties said a three-month extension is necessary to continue the debate on ways to contain the coronavirus pandemic and whether the Tokyo Olympics, set to begin July 23, and Paralympics can be held safely.

CDPJ leader Yukio Edano accused Suga of "stopping the highest institution of the state from functioning for an extended period during the worst crisis since the end of the war."

"On that point alone, he is unfit to be a leader during an emergency," Edano said before the vote was held in a lower house plenary session in the afternoon.

The no-confidence motion was the first since June 2019 when one was filed against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet, in which Suga served as chief Cabinet secretary.

On Sunday, Suga did not rule out dissolving the lower house for a general election in response to a no-confidence motion, while maintaining that bringing the pandemic under control is his top priority.

But LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai said Tuesday he does not expect Suga, who leads the party, to dissolve the house during the current parliamentary session, a view corroborated by several senior administration officials.

"We need to stay on our guard and make sure the remaining bills are enacted," Suga said in a meeting between the government and the ruling coalition.

Jun Azumi, the CDPJ's head of parliamentary affairs told reporters the opposition "won't be constrained or threatened" and stands "ready to fight" in the general election, which must take place before Oct. 21 when the current four-year terms of lower house members end.

The ruling coalition currently holds 306 of 465 seats in the more powerful of parliament's two chambers. A Kyodo News poll conducted last month showed support for the LDP at 41.9%, the CDPJ at 8.6% and Komeito at 4.5%, while 32.1% of respondents said they do not back any party.

The other opposition parties that submitted the no-confidence motion were the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party for the People and the Social Democratic Party. The Japan Innovation Party voted against it.

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