Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election on Monday, seeking a fresh term at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy as tensions with North Korea reach fever-pitch.
“I will dissolve the House of Representatives on the 28th” of September, Abe told reporters, a precursor to a general election.
Voters in the world’s third-largest economy could go to the polls as soon as October 22, more than a year earlier than expected, as Abe seeks to take advantage of a political opposition in disarray.
According to a weekend poll in business daily Nikkei, 44 percent of voters plan to vote for Abe’s conservative LDP party, while only eight percent said they would side with the main opposition Democratic Party.
The winner of the expected snap election faces a daunting in-tray of challenges ranging from an unprecedented crisis with North Korea to reviving the once world-beating Japanese economy.
Pyongyang has threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired two missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido in the space of less than a month.
Surveys suggest voters approve of nationalist Abe’s firm line on North Korea and the crisis appears to have given him a welcome boost in the polls following a series of scandals, including allegations he improperly favoured a friend in a business deal.
At a time of national crisis over North Korea, Japanese voters may see it as a “cynical and opportunistic move” designed to divert attention from a series of scandals that weighed on Abe’s popularity, warned Sano.
If re-elected, it would be Abe’s fourth term at the helm of the world’s third top economy.
The third-generation of powerful politicians, Abe appeared to be groomed for power from an early age and he was the country’s youngest prime minister when he first won the top job.
He was the first world leader to cultivate close relations with US President Donald Trump, meeting the tycoon in Trump Towers even before he was inaugurated.