Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on 25 September 2017 called for a snap election, a year earlier than the scheduled time.
Abe said that he would dissolve parliament’s lower house on 28 September, seeking a stronger mandate and support for his tough stance towards the increasing threats from North Korea following its illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme.
Abe hopes to take advantage of the higher opinion polls and the weak and fractured opposition to sweep back into power. He said his goal was for his coalition to retain a majority in the chamber. He added that he would resign as prime minister if his party failed to win a majority.
Though he did not give an exact date for the elections, it will reportedly be held on 22 October 2017.
The previous months had seen Abe’s popular support being hit by a string of scandals and unpopular policies. However, his hard-line stance against North Korea has largely been given an upvote by voters, according to the latest surveys.
North Korean Threat
• North Korea fired two ballistic missiles over Japan twice in the last month and conducted its sixth and biggest nuclear test on 3 September 2017.
• Following the fresh UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea’s missile programme that was spearheaded by the US and Japan, the country issued an explicit threat to Japan, saying that it would sink it by using a nuclear bomb.
• North Korea even issued a warning to the United States of America, stating that it would turn the US into ashes and darkness.
• The 15-member UNSC voted unanimously in support of a US-drafted resolution condemning North Korea’s recent missile test and imposing measures that included a ban on North Korean textile imports and restrictions on oil exports to the country.
According to a recent survey, while 44 per cent of the voters plan to vote for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the main opposition Democratic Party is expected to struggle with single-digit poll ratings.
Abe will, however, face a challenge from former LDP cabinet member and current Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, who announced her intention of forming a new national political party.
If Abe succeeds in winning another term, it would put him on track to becoming the country's longest-serving political leader in its post-war history.