National / Politics

Abe to lay out general snap election plan on Monday

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering laying out his plan next Monday to dissolve the Lower House later in the week for a general election in October, a government source said Tuesday.

Abe is looking to hold a news conference to announce he will disband the House of Representatives on Sept. 28, when the Lower House convenes for an extraordinary session, according to the source.

In line with the schedule, official campaigning would start Oct. 10 for the election on Oct. 22, ruling Liberal Democratic Party sources said.

As for reasons to dissolve the Lower House chamber, the prime minister is expected to seek a public mandate over the government’s response to escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, its stance on social security reforms as well as promoting debate on the revision to the pacifist Constitution.

LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said Tuesday that Abe has instructed him to prepare for the election. The prime minister was quoted as telling Nikai during their meeting Monday, “I will decide on (the timing of the election) after returning from the U.N. General Assembly” on Friday.

Abe, who doubles as the LDP president, is on a five-day trip to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

In a meeting of LDP executives on Tuesday, Nikai expressed the party’s resolve to get all its candidates elected.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads the LDP’s junior coalition partner, Komeito, said his party would accelerate its preparations for the race, telling reporters, “We will start considering how to brace for (the election), keeping in mind that we are always on a battlefield.”

Opposition parties also geared up for the upcoming race, with the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party both holding executive meetings.

Abe is believed to have made the decision to call an election to take advantage of disarray in the leading opposition Democratic Party as well as rebounding approval ratings for his Cabinet following a series of scandals involving ministers, including cronyism allegations leveled at the prime minister himself.

Opposition parties criticized Abe’s plan, saying he is seeking his own interest and there is no reason to call an election.

Goshi Hosono, a former environment minister who left the Democratic Party, said he expects a new party can be launched “within this month” jointly with independent lawmaker Masaru Wakasa, an ally of popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.

“We’d like to present an option to voters” in the election, Hosono said on a TV program.

Regarding the possibility of Democratic Party lawmakers, Hosono said he has been “contacted by various members” of the party and he is willing to talk to them.

In the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly race in July, Koike’s Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) won a landslide victory, defeating the LDP and the Democratic Party.

In hope of tapping into the momentum, Hosono and Wakasa are planning to field candidates in all of the 25 constituencies in the capital, sources close to them said.