Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of parliament in preparation for an early election.
Shinzo Abe is seeking a new mandate for economic reforms and is delaying an unpopular increase in sales tax.
However, opinion polls conducted by local media indicate low support for Shinzo Abe and that many people do not understand why he has called an election two years ahead of schedule.
Japanese voters will now head to the polls on December 14.
The dissolution of parliament was announced in the lower house by Speaker Bunmei Ibuki on Friday morning.
Japan’s legislature, known as the National Diet, comprises the upper House of Councillors and the lower House of Representatives.
Shinzo Abe is expected to hold a news conference later.
On November 20, he said he would use the election campaign to clarify his government’s growth strategy, reported national broadcaster NHK.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of parliament in preparation for an early election
A Kyodo News agency survey on November 21 found that about 63% of people did not understand Shinzo Abe’s reasons for going to the polls early.
A separate survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that only 39% supported Shinzo Abe.
Though his popularity has fallen, Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are still expected to win the election because of the weakness of the opposition.
Shinzo Abe has said he will resign if his coalition – which holds the majority in the lower house – fails to win a simple majority.
He launched an ambitious economic plan, informally known as “Abenomics”, two years ago when he became prime minister.
Though Japan’s GDP growth initially saw a lift, the economy continued to slide and Japan entered a technical recession after Q3 2014.
It was exacerbated by a rise in sales tax in April, from 5% to 8%.
The increases were aimed at curbing Japan’s public debt which is the highest among developed nations, but instead scared Japanese consumers off spending.
A second increase, to 10%, was set for October 2015 but Shinzo Abe has said that will be delayed by at least 18 months.
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Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has called snap election in December, two years ahead of schedule.
At a news briefing, Shinzo Abe said he would dissolve parliament on November 21 and was also delaying a planned but unpopular increase in sales tax.
The prime minister was elected in 2012 with an ambitious plan to revive the economy, but has struggled to do so.
Shinzo Abe’s popularity has fallen but he is expected to win the election, which will take place in mid-December.
“I will dissolve the lower house on 21 [November] ,” Shinzo Abe said.
His party, the Liberal Democrats, already has a majority in the lower house, but analysts said Shinzo Abe hoped to consolidate power over an opposition party which is in disarray.
Shinzo Abe’s popularity fell below 50%. In another year from now he may face a very tough battle to get re-elected.
An early election means he is almost certain to win another majority.
The rise in Japan’s sales tax was legislated by the previous government in 2012 to curb Japan’s huge public debt, which is the highest among developed nations.
The first rise – from 5% to 8% – took place in April.
Shinzo Abe’s government had hoped the increase would boost income but instead Japanese consumers stopped spending.
Figures released on November 17 showed Japan had fallen back into a technical recession.
The second increase, to 10%, was set for October 2015 but will now be delayed by at least 18 months.
An election does not need to be held until 2016.
Howevr, Shinzo Abe is looking for a secure mandate ahead of introducing unpopular policies that could see his popularity fall even further, correspondents say.
He has strongly advocated restarting Japan’s nuclear power generation plants, all of which were shut down amid public anger after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Before the accident about 30% of Japan’s power was nuclear-generated, and the prime minister says the shutdown is damaging the economy because of expensive energy imports.
Shinzo Abe has also supported a reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution that would allow the use of force to act to defend allies, known as collective self-defense.
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