Japan's Abe announces plan to dissolve lower house for snap election amid controversy

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/25 20:42:07

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at a press conference on Monday that he will dissolve the House of Representatives when it convenes Thursday to pave way for a general election.

The prime minister said that the snap election was called to seek a fresh mandate to overcome a national crisis caused by "the biggest challenge facing Japan, which is the population aging and low birthrate," as well as security challenges.

He said that he would seek mandate from the people for shifting the usage of part of the revenue generated by a consumption tax hike that has been delayed until 2019 from paying debt to welfare policies.

He said that fostering human resources and improving productivity would be two pillars of his Cabinet's policies, adding that the government would compile a policy package worth 2 trillion yen (18 billion US dollars) by the end of this year to boost support for child care and education.

The policy package would include measures to make preschool education and day care services free for children aged between three and five and reduce the financial burdens for higher education, according to Abe.

He also said that he would seek public support for a tougher stance over the Korea Peninsula issue.

Regarding the recent favoritism scandals that brought down his support ratings, Abe said he expects a "tough election" with harsh criticisms from opposition parties.

He said he would call the election a success if the ruling bloc could take over half of the seats of the lower house of parliament.

Abe's decision to call for a snap election has drawn staunch criticism from opposition parties, which accused the prime minister of fleeing from cronyism accusations.

Abe has been under fire for his connection with nationalist private school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which purchased a piece of state-owned land in Osaka for only a fraction of the market price.

He has also been accused of using his influence to make the government choose Kake Educational Institution, run by a close friend of Abe's, to open a new department in a government-designated special economic zone.

There have also been criticisms saying that Abe tries to stay in power regardless of the risks of creating a political vacuum at a time of rising geopolitical tensions over the Korea Peninsula.

Local analysts said Abe is trying to take advantage of the recent recovery in his support ratings after a plunge due to the favoritism scandals, while the opposition parties are not yet prepared for an election.

According to a survey conducted over the weekend by Kyodo News, 64.3 percent of the respondents said they do not support the prime minister's plan to call a snap election, while 23.7 percent expressed support.

About 78.8 percent of the respondents said they are not satisfied with the government's explanation on the recent favoritism scandals, while only 13.8 percent said the opposite.

Shortly before Abe announced his plan to dissolve the lower house, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she is establishing a new political party at the national level and that the party will be called "Kibou no To," which means Party of Hope in English.

Koike's Tomin First no Kai's (Tokyoites First party) has won a sweeping victory over Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly race in July, which is widely regarded as a barometer for the future direction of national politics.

The snap election is slated for Oct. 22, with the official campaigning beginning on Oct. 10.

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