Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls snap election

Tuesday, 26 Sep, 2017

"I am ready for that", said Mr Abe, 63, who took office in December 2012 and is two years from becoming Japan's longest-serving prime minister.

"I expect opposition criticism is going to focus on (the scandals), and it's going to be a very hard election", Abe said. Turning to Asia, he also stated that North Korea's nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches are an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat to global peace and security.

Mr Abe officially announced his intention to dissolve the lower house at the beginning of the extraordinary Diet session starting September 28.

Koike's Tomin First no Kai (Tokyo Residents First) party humiliated Abe and the LDP in local elections in July, but analysts say the new grouping has not had time to lay a national foundation to mount a serious challenge to the prime minister.

Abe has served a total of nearly six years as prime minister: he had a truncated term a decade ago, and came back to power in a landslide in 2012.

Abe on Monday asked his cabinet to compile a 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) economic package by year-end to focus on child care, education and encouraging corporate investment.

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"For Mr. Abe, now is the time".

Mr Abe's support has surged as rising tensions with North Korea have overshadowed criticism of alleged cronyism.

In the previous 2014 election, he lost to Kenji Eda, former deputy president of the main opposition Democratic Party, in the No. 8 constituency of Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Democratic Party and other opposition parties have started advancing their preparation for the election, exploring the possibility of promoting electoral cooperation to counter the ruling bloc. The increase in Abe's ratings may help him retain his coalition's two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament. The total number of seats is set to be cut to 465 in the next election as part of a reform aimed at reducing the excessive weight given to rural votes under the current system.

The Nikkei poll was more positive for Abe's prospects than a Kyodo news agency survey that showed his LDP garnering 27.7 percent support, with 42.2 percent undecided.