COVID has raised the stakes of hosting the Games to unprecedented levels but we need the Olympics more than ever before.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is likely to call a snap election after the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, a media report has said, showing his resolve to push ahead with the Games despite the country’s struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government is considering crafting a new economic stimulus package before the expected snap election, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said on Thursday, citing several unnamed ruling party executives.
Suga agreed on Wednesday with the head of his ruling coalition partner not to extend the current parliament session when it comes to an end on June 16, according to media reports.
That means Japan will forgo compiling a supplementary budget for now and tap nearly 4 trillion Japanese yen ($36.50bn) left in reserves to pay for immediate spending to combat the pandemic, the Asahi said.
“It’s obvious we need an extra budget but parliament is closing so we don’t have time to pass it,” ruling party legislator Shoji Nishida told the Reuters news agency last week.
“But there should be debate within the party on compiling another stimulus package and an extra budget,” he said.
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the Asahi report.
Plunging support for Suga
Suga has said he would focus on dealing with the pandemic and that Japan will go ahead with the Games under strict rules to protect people from the virus.
Slow vaccine distribution and strong public opposition to holding the Games have led to a plunge in Suga’s support ratings, heightening uncertainty over his administration’s fate.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games starting on July 23, the most likely scenario is for Suga to dissolve parliament after the September 5 end of the Paralympic Games and call a snap election, the Asahi said.
Meanwhile, the country continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19, which has forced the extension of a state of emergency in many parts of Japan.
As of Thursday, the country has reported more than 750,000 cases and more than 13,100 deaths with Osaka particularly badly hit.
According to the Osaka prefectural government, the increase to the spread of the Alpha variant that first emerged in the UK, and other mutated strains of the virus.