Eying snap election, Abe to focus on education, security

Source:Reuters Published: 2017/9/19 23:33:40

Pledges to spend on education and child care, stay tough on North Korea and revise the pacifist constitution are likely to be pillars of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's campaign in a snap election next month, government sources said on Tuesday.

Abe was expected to announce that he will call a general election on October 22 to take advantage of a rebound in his damaged approval ratings and disarray in the opposition, ruling party and government sources said.

The prime minister, whose ratings have recovered from below 30 percent in July, is betting his ruling bloc can at a minimum retain a simple majority in the chamber and at best keep the two-thirds super-majority needed to achieve his long-held goal of revising the constitution to clarify the military's role.

A solid victory would boost Abe's chances of a third term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader in a party election next September, putting him on track to become Japan's longest-serving premier. "That is his biggest goal," said veteran independent political analyst Minoru Morita.

Abe's support rose 6.5 points to 50.3 percent in a poll conducted over the weekend by the Sankei newspaper and the Fuji News Network, while backing for the LDP was at 38 percent compared to 6.4 percent for the main opposition Democratic Party.

Abe wants to go ahead with a planned rise in the nation's sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent and use some of the revenue to create a "social security system for all generations," which would invest in education while decreasing the proportion of sales tax revenue used to pay down government debt, the sources said.

Japan's social welfare system is weighted toward spending on the elderly, with people aged 65 and over accounting for a whopping 27.7 percent of the population according to the latest government data.


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