Monday 18 June 2018

Japan's Abe calls snap election for 'future of our children'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told voters only he could protect them from the threat of North Korean missiles. Photo: Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told voters only he could protect them from the threat of North Korean missiles. Photo: Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

Mari Yamaguchi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to the streets after calling a snap election, telling voters only he could protect them from the threat of North Korean missiles.

Mr Abe also told a crowd in Tokyo's busy Shibuya district that only his party could implement appropriate measures to deal with Japan's rapidly ageing and declining population.

"I must seek your support in order to overcome this national crisis," Mr Abe said.

The premier dissolved the lower house of parliament earlier yesterday, calling an election on October 22.

Opposition politicians scrambled to regroup around Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike's new party to challenge Mr Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Mr Abe is widely seen as trying to reconsolidate his grip on power within his party, so he can extend the term of his premiership next year.

The dissolution of the more powerful of Japan's two-chamber parliament comes more than a year before required by law.

However, the ruling party faces a growing challenge from a new party launched by Ms Koike this week.

The Party of Hope has energised some voters, and is gaining renegade politicians from the main opposition party.

The speaker of the house, Tadamori Oshima, read the statement of dissolution.

Lower house members all stood up and chanted "banzai" three times in a dissolution ritual, then rushed out of the assembly hall.

Minutes after the dissolution, Mr Abe made a fiery speech to party members.

He said he was seeking a public mandate on his tougher diplomatic and defence policies to deal with escalating threats from North Korea

"This election is about how we protect Japan, the people's lives and peaceful daily life," he said. "The election is about the future of our children."

The Cabinet later approved an October 22 election for the 475-seat lower house.

The other chamber, the upper house, does not dissolve but is closed until parliament is reconvened after the election.

Support ratings for Mr Abe's government had plunged to below 30pc in July following repeated parliamentary questions about allegations he helped his friend obtain approval to open a veterinary college.

Recent media polls show the support ratings recovering to around 50pc, helped by parliament's recess and a cabinet reshuffle in August which removed the defence minister and several other unpopular faces.

Irish Independent

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