Japan's Abe calls snap election as ratings improve

  25 September 2017    Read: 937
Japan's Abe calls snap election as ratings improve

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday called a snap general election for next month, local media reported.

The Kyodo news agency said Abe had set Oct. 22 as the date for the vote following a meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The announcement came amid improved ratings for the ruling party and disarray among the opposition.

It will be the third general election since the LDP came to power in 2012 and could see Abe retain the premiership past 2020.

According to a poll conducted by the Nikkei business newspaper, the government now enjoys a 50 percent approval rating, up from around 30 percent in July.

The survey showed 44 percent of voters planned to vote for the LDP, with 8 percent choosing the largest opposition party, a newly formed group led by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

The opposition Democratic Party is in disarray, having just elevated former Foreign Minister Seiji Meahara to leader in a divisive election.

Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, said Abe wanted a swift election to prevent Koike’s party organizing for a national election.

The election will come as Japan faces the renewed threat of conflict with North Korea. Abe’s leadership amid rising tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs has improved his popularity and taken the spotlight off allegations of cronyism.

“In a time of crisis, you can count on people coming around,” Nakano said.

Abe has also proposed that funds from a sales tax rise be used for social policies such as child care and tuition in local schools.

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