Published: Tue, September 26, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Japan's Premier Shinzō Abe calls snap election

Japan's Premier Shinzō Abe calls snap election

Abe, who has held power for five years, has seen his popularity fall significantly in the wake of the scandals.

"I will dissolve the House of Representatives on September 28", Abe said at a press conference on Monday evening at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo.

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. "Because of the situation that we now face, I want to hold an election in order to ask the public to make a decision on how the North Korean issue should be dealt with".

According to the latest poll conducted by The Nikkei & TV Tokyo between 25 and 27 August, Abe's Liberal Democratic party have a 34% lead over closest rivals the Democratic party.

The country's 48th general election comes after a shaky time for Abe and his government, which was wracked by two corruption scandals linked to the Prime Minister and his wife, and the resignation of defense minister Tomomi Inada over an alleged cover-up.

Now he is preparing to run his greatest risk yet, a snap election scheduled for October 22.

On Sept. 11, the UN Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, imposing a ban on the isolated nation's textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.

Seoul, one of the world's biggest cities and economic engines, lies just 55km from North Korean frontlines - meaning millions of lives could be at risk if conflict breaks out. "Can we continue letting [the existing lawmakers] handle politics?"

But Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, said there was "no opposition worthy of the name in Japan".

The victor 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.

"For North Korea, dialogue was, instead, the best means of deceiving us and buying time", Abe said. Instead, he called for a major escalation of global sanctions.

Abe, on a nationally televised news conference, said he needed a mandate to shift some revenues from a planned future tax hike to social spending such as education.

"I want people's support". He could serve until 2021 if reelected as party leader next year, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.

While the opposition in Japan now seems divided and weak, Abe's critics say he runs the risk of alienating voters by playing politics at time when the country faces a serious security threat.

President Trump's recent threat to totally destroy North Korea if attacked, and the escalating war of words between the leaders of the US and North Korea, have heightened these concerns for many.

If re-elected, it would be Abe's fourth term.

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