Japan’s leader Abe seen poised to call snap general election

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (picture) may hold a snap general election next month, local media reported, a move that would allow him to seize on opposition disarray and growing support for his handling of the North Korea crisis.

Abe appears increasingly inclined to call an election amid a recovery in public support  following a spate of scandals, public broadcaster NHK reported, without saying where  it obtained the information. He’ll make a decision after talks with senior Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and government officials and may announce the move as early as Sept 28 when Parliament reopens, according to NHK.

A vote is most likely to  be held on Oct 29, the Sankei newspaper reported. An NHK poll last week showed that support for Abe’s ruling coalition climbed five points to 44% from a month earlier, with approval exceeding disapproval for the first time in three months. A snap election may speed up the formation of a new national political party linked to Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike to face Abe’s LDP, according to NHK, citing comments by lawmaker Masaru Wakasa.

North Korea’s recent spate of missile tests has unnerved  Japanese voters and more than two-thirds of respondents to  the NHK poll approve of Abe’s strong line on the isolated nation. The main opposition Democratic Party appears to be unravelling with the resignation of several members since a new leader was voted in earlier this month.

“The Democratic Party is in terrible shape, so there is no opposition to Abe,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus in Tokyo, said by email. “Crises such as that on the Korean Peninsula are generally good for incumbents. You can look like you’re in charge.”

Koichi Hagiuda, a senior LDP executive, told Fuji Television yesterday that while a decision to call a snap election rests with Abe, the party has to be ready for a vote at any time. A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said that dissolving Parliament for an election is the sole prerogative of the prime minister.

A general election must be held by the end of 2018. Akimasa Ishikawa, an LDP backbencher, said if Abe decides to call an election at the re-opening of  Parliament on Sept 28. It could be “good timing”. — Bloomberg