Sunday, 19 August, 2018

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe calls snap election next month

Japan PM Shinzo Abe says time for North Korea dialogue is over Pic Courtesy PTI
Nellie Chapman | 27 September, 2017, 00:26

He said he'd pay for them with funds from a consumption tax increase originally meant to rein in the nation's swollen debt.

Abe had responded with a hardline stance against provocations by Pyongyang, which had fired two ballistic missiles over northern Japan in just one month, calling for changes to Japan's Constitution in order to strengthen the country's military.

However, news of a new snap general election have dashed any hopes of casino expansion taking place this year, pushing the bill back to next year as Japan looks to deal with the threat of North Korea.

But in the face of North Korea's continued threatening behavior, the Japanese public has increasingly coalesced in favor of the conservative prime minister's strong defensive posture. Abe said he would resign if he failed to get a majority.

However, Iwanaga says the snap election is "a smart move" that should serve Abe well at a time when the main opposition Democratic party is in turmoil and not well placed to fight an election. A Kyodo News poll taken over the weekend showed that 64 percent of the respondents opposed Abe dissolving the Lower House now as opposed to 23 percent who supported it. President Trump's recent threat to totally destroy North Korea if attacked, and the escalating war of words between the leaders of the USA and North Korea, have heightened these concerns for many.

Given recent cases overseas where elections have led to unexpected results, however, political analysts are not ruling out what one called a "nasty surprise" for the Japanese leader.

"Abe's big gamble could yield a big surprise", veteran independent political analysts Minoru Morita said.

The prime minister had been expected to face a grilling over the cronyism scandals during Thursday's session, and opposition party officials saw the move as play to avoid hard questions.

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

He told public broadcaster NHK that diverting sales tax revenue would make it "impossible" to meet the government's target of balancing Japan's budget - excluding debt servicing costs and bond sales - by the year beginning April 2020.

In a report on Tuesday, economists at SMBC Nikko Securities said measures to shore up the books are now a lower priority for Abe's government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a close United States ally, said on Wednesday she has a "clear disagreement" with Mr Trump.

After Abe said he would dissolve the lower house of parliament, local media reported the election would be held on 22 October.

"This is going to be a new force formed by members aiming to achieve reforms and conservativism", Koike said.