Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament this week, calling for a snap election around mid-December. It comes after the government delayed the second stage of unpopular consumption tax hikes by 18 months. Despite Japan’s economic troubles, Abe’s popularity remains high, leading some to question his motivations for calling an early election.
With a sense of accomplishment, Abe said it is now up to the Japanese public to decide whether he is still needed for the economic recovery efforts.
Experts said there are two major reasons that Abe called this snap election. First, he’s looking to wipe his slate clean after a series of political money scandals that lead to number of ministers resigning. Second, there’s growing fears that the economy may slipping back into recession. The election would be an ideal reset button.
“Ordinarily, this will be an opportunity for the opposition to cooperate and unite in fighting against the ruling LDP. Unfortunately, with a sudden election with less than one month to prepare, it will be hard for the opposition to find candidates and expand their seats in the diet,” said Ken Jimbo, an assistant professor of Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University, Japan.
“What is he doing is a clear political calculations. I take my lumps now. Because I will do worse later, and if I run now, I will get a two year extension, or at the LDP gets two more year in the diet. More time to roll out his agenda of reform,” said Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian studies from Temple University.
However, unpopular decisions may lie ahead Abe that might chip away at his support.
These include restarting nuclear power plants, a controversial free trade agreement, collective self-defense and changing interpretations of the Japanese constitution.
But this election may well allow Abe to push ahead with his agenda.
“The voters will probably feel that they are deprived of a real choice. But once the election is over, Abe is likely to claim that he’s got the popular mandate and now he practically has the blank cheque of the people for continuing to govern for another four years,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor from Sophia University.
The vote is set for Dec. 14 and the opposition camps are rushing to line up candidates in a bid to gain as many seats as possible.
CCTV America’s Terrence Terashima reports from Tokyo.