April 22, 2018

Japan's Prime Minister Calls Snap October Election, Pushes New Stimulus Package

27 September 2017, 12:27 | Kenneth Drake

Getty*Reuters Prime Minister Abe has said now is"not the time for dialogue

Shinzo Abe and Trump

Abe has only recently recovered from a summer that saw his approval ratings plummet amid an influence-peddling scandal.

"By holding the election under these circumstances, I want to ask the public about [Japan's] responses to North Korea", Abe emphasized. It has been helped, the party believes, by Abe's alignment with U.S. President Donald Trump in opposing North Korea in its development of nuclear missile capability.

"If he loses a significant number of seats, particularly with the opposition in the midst of a significant reorganization, Mr. Abe will have only reinforced the impression that his time is up", wrote Tobias Harris (paywall), a fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Washington DC.

Abe's opponents have cried foul, with Kazunori Yamanoi, parliamentary head of the main opposition Democratic Party, saying it was "unthinkable" for the premier to call a snap vote "for his own a time when Japanese citizens are frightened by the North Korean missile crisis". Opposition party officials have said calling an election would be an attempt by Abe to dodge questioning over the cronyism scandals in a session of parliament set to begin on Thursday.

Popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike announced on Monday she would lead a new political party into national elections expected next month, hoping to repeat her success in local polls.

Abe said he would redirect some revenue from a planned sales tax hike in 2019 to child care and education rather than paying back public debt, although he added he would not abandon fiscal reform.

The prime minister had been expected to face a grilling over the cronyism scandals during Thursday's session, and opposition party officials saw the move as play to avoid hard questions.

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, who visited NY to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, held a summit meeting with the heads of state of African countries mainly those are members of the UN Security Council.

Ms Koike, who was herself a Diet member with the LDP before running for governor, indicated the new party will field candidates nationwide.

Japanese voters could see the election as "cynical and opportunistic move" meant to distract from recent allegations, said Yoel Sano, an analyst at Business Monitor International (BMI) research.

Asked in a Kyodo News nationwide poll over the weekend which party would get their proportional representation vote, 27.0% said the LDP, 8.0% said the Democratic Party and 4.6% said Komeito.

Mr Abe said: "I expect opposition criticism is going to focus on (the scandals), and it's going to be a very hard election".

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