Photo/IllutrationChief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at his May 17 news conference (Takeshi Iwashita)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga put opposition parties on notice May 17 that if they submitted a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it would give the ruling party the perfect excuse to call a snap election.

When Suga was asked at his regular daily news conference if a no-confidence resolution would be sufficient reason to dissolve the Lower House, he replied, "Of course."

In the past, when asked about the possibility of a Lower House dissolution and snap election, Suga has always said that such a decision was the prerogative of the prime minister.

His latest comment stirred talk in political circles that a double election was still possible this summer with a snap Lower House election to be held in conjunction with the already scheduled Upper House election.

With the huge majority controlled in both Diet chambers by the ruling coalition, the chances of a no-confidence resolution passing are nil. But in the past, the Lower House has been dissolved as a consequence of a resolution being filed.

A lawmaker who once served in an executive position with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said, "If the Cabinet faces a no-confidence resolution, it would ask the voters to directly state if they have confidence in the government." This could only be done by dissolving the Lower House for a snap election.

There has already been considerable speculation about what might trigger a Lower House dissolution.

One factor that had been raised was another delay in the planned October increase in the consumption tax rate from the current 8 percent to 10 percent.

Another delay is deemed extremely difficult by government and ruling coalition officials in light of the fact that the fiscal 2019 budget already passed by the Diet contains various programs that are preconditioned on a higher rate.

A lack of progress in negotiations with Russia over the disputed Northern Territories and abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea means it is more likely for the ruling camp to call an election to gauge voter sentiment in case agreements are reached in either or both cases.

Opposition parties in the past have often submitted no-confidence resolutions close to the end of an ordinary Diet session as a demonstration of their confrontational stance against the government.

For that reason, Suga's latest comment could be seen as a threat to head off such tactics.

But Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, was perplexed by Suga's comment on grounds it seemed to indicate it was the opposition who held the authority to dissolve the Lower House.

(This article was written by Ryutaro Abe and Junichi Bekku.)