Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called a snap election, seeking a mandate to stick to his tough stance towards a volatile North Korea and rebalance the social security system.
Abe, in power for five years, had been expected to call the election for next month to take advantage of improved support and disarray in the opposition camp.
“I’ll demonstrate strong leadership and stand at the forefront to face a national crisis,” Abe said.
“This is my responsibility as leader and my mission as prime minister.”
It’s believed the election will be on October 22.
Abe rejected criticism that holding an election now would create a political vacuum at a time of rising tension over North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms program.
Pyongyang has fired ballistic missiles over Japan twice in the last month.
“We must not give in to North Korea’s threats. By gaining a mandate from the people with this election, I will forge ahead with strong diplomacy,” Abe said.
Abe, whose ratings have risen to around 50 per cent from around 30 per cent in July, is gambling his ruling bloc can keep its lower house majority even if it loses the two-thirds “super majority” needed to achieve his long-held goal of revising the post-war pacifist constitution to clarify the military’s role.
A weekend survey by the Nikkei business daily showed 44 per cent of voters planned to vote for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) versus 8 per cent for the main opposition Democratic Party and another 8 per cent for a new party launched by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
“Our ideal is to proceed free of special interests,” Koike, a former LDP member, said.