Japan’s Abe says he will call snap election for parliament
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday he will call an early election for parliament’s more powerful lower house for next month.
Abe said at a news conference that he will dissolve the 475-seat chamber on Thursday when it convenes after a three-month summer recess. The election is to be held Oct. 22.
Support ratings for Abe’s government have started to rebound after attacks on him over cronyism scandals faded during the recess. Also, opposition parties are regrouping and unprepared for an election. Opposition lawmakers have said there is no need to hold an election now.
Abe said he was seeking a mandate for his plans to use new tax revenues for education and elderly care, and for his defense policy toward North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear threat, saying the situation is tantamount to a national crisis.
“I will tackle the national crisis with my strong leadership,” Abe said.
“I expect opposition criticism is going to focus on (the scandals), and it’s going to be a very difficult election,” Abe said. He said he will step down as prime minister if his Liberal Democratic Party fails to win a majority, or at least 233 seats, to stay in power.
Analysts believe his ruling Liberal Democratic Party will retain a majority, but could lose the two-thirds majority it currently holds with its coalition partner, the Komei party. Still, a big enough victory could help Abe extend his hold on power. His three-year term as party leader ends next September, and he will have to fend off any challengers from within the LDP to remain prime minister.
“For Mr. Abe, now is the time. He is taking advantage of unprepared opposition parties as he seeks to prolong his leadership,” said Yu Uchiyama, a University of Tokyo politics professor.
Support ratings for his government plunged to […]