Japan PM Abe Unlikely to Call Snap Election Due to Quakes

By Reuters 20 April 2016

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is unlikely to call a snap election after deadly earthquakes on the southern Kyushu island and may postpone ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement until the next session of parliament, the Sankei newspaper reported Wednesday.

Speculation had grown that Abe may dissolve parliament’s lower house and call an election on the same day as an upper house poll is due in July.

But Sankei said a double election would put a burden on quake-hit local municipals as they seek to reconstruct their economies and put the lives of victims back in order.

A series of Japanese quakes measuring up to 7.3 hit Kyushu last week killing 44 people. More than 94,000 people remained in evacuation centers, cut off from the world by destroyed roads.

Because of the quakes, the government’s ruling coalition was expected to postpone ratification of the TPP trade agreement in the current parliament which ends June 1, the report said.

The TPP was not expected to be ratified soon.

Abe is expected to announce a final decision on a sales tax hike planned next April around the time of a May 26-27 Group of Seven summit that he will host.

The premier was already expected to delay the tax increase even before the deadly quakes, which some private economists said now make the postponement even more likely.

Abe said this week that he would stick to the tax plan, barring a financial crisis or a major natural disaster.

Separately, Tomomi Inada, the policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said that the government could consider raising the sales tax one percentage point at a time if the economy was not strong enough to endure a bigger rise, the Nikkei business daily reported.