Abe calls snap election in Japan, readies $18 billion package

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It seemed reasonable to assume he would do so again, particularly since the tax hike decision basically coincides with when he must call an election anyway (Japan's lower house has a maximum term of four years, and the terms are up in December 2018).

Abe is seeking to take advantage of his close to 50 percent approval rating in recent public opinion polls.

"One should not rule out the LDP actually maintaining its supermajority for two reasons: the opposition parties are in disarray and face a severe shortage of parliamentary candidates; and second, the combination of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and China's response to it plays well into Abe's fundamental and emotional popularity base".

There was "not much enthusiasm for Abe or his policies", acknowledged the expert. The election for the new lower house is likely to be held on October 22, according to media reports.

The popular governor, whose local party upstaged the LDP in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July, scrambled to launch the national party in time for Abe's snap election announcement.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced an early election to capitalize on rising public support for his hard-line stance against the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.

Among the priorities of Abe's government is the removal of Japan's fiscal deficit by 2020 through an increase in a consumption tax.

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The prime minister had been expected to face a grilling over the cronyism scandals during a session of parliament from Thursday and opposition party officials saw the move as a ploy to avoid hard questions.

"There is no military solution, because that would be a disaster, not only for North Korea but for South Korea, the whole peninsula and Japan", he told reporters.

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 Defence Minister Tomomi Inada over an alleged cover-up. A survey last weekend by the Nikkei business daily newspaper indicated that 44 percent of voters meant to vote for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Speaking at a meeting with his top advisory panel, Abe said the package should focus on subsidising education, child-care costs, and on boosting corporate investments to improve productivity.

"Koike annihilated the LDP in Tokyo but taking that movement national will not be easy and they are not ready", said Kingston. But he does face some headwinds: nearly two-thirds of the public disapprove of the decision to fast-track the elections, and 42% polled said they are undecided about whom to support.

A latest poll stated that Abe's LDP party received a total of 44 percent of support in comparison to 8 percent support for the main opposition Democratic Party and Koike's group.

Acknowledging that it would be a very hard election, Mr Abe added: "I am ready for that".

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