Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Two in three Japanese to vote against Abe in planned snap elections

Kim Jong-un celebrates a missile launch AFP GETTYKim Jong-un celebrates a missile launch
June Sullivan | 26 September, 2017, 00:43

Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has called a snap national election and will dissolve the country's parliament later this week as he seeks support for a new government push to revive the country's moribund economy.

Abe held a news conference early in the evening of September 25 to announce he was dissolving the Lower House when it convenes September 28.

The head of Abe's junior coalition partner, Natsuo Yamaguchi, said he understood the election would be held on October 22.

Abe's image as a strong leader in response to these risks has overshadowed criticism from the opposition over scandals that had eroded his support. A survey last weekend by the Nikkei business daily newspaper indicated that 44 percent of voters meant to vote for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Also, opposition parties are regrouping and unprepared for an election.

However, he faces a credible challenge from Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, a former defence minister who has founded her own conservative party to rival the LDP.

Because of the election, Finance Minister Taro Aso will likely forego the meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington next month.

The prime minister, whose ratings have risen to about 50% from about 30% in July, makes the announcement amid threats from North Korea's government, who launched two missiles over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido in recent weeks.

He pledged to use some of the proceeds of a planned hike in sales tax to fund education and childcare, rather than drawing down Japan's massive debt, resulting in an effective stimulus package of around two trillion yen ($18 billion).

A number of prominent LDP and Democratic Party members have said that they will switch to the new movement. The prime minister is chosen by both houses of the Diet. She has already said she does not support raising consumption tax.

However, a further 42.2% of voters surveyed said they were undecided - which adds a degree of uncertainty to the outcome, with one analyst not ruling out a "nasty surprise" for Abe's ruling party. A total of 475 seats in the lower house will be up for grabs.

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