Japan PM Shinzo Abe calls snap election in December

Japan PM Shinzo Abe calls snap election in December

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called an early election, two years ahead of schedule.

At a news briefing, he said he would dissolve parliament later this week and was also delaying a planned but unpopular increase in sales tax.

Mr Abe was elected two years ago with an ambitious plan to revive the economy, but has struggled to do so.

His 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) ,” Mr Abe said.

Mr Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats already has a majority in the lower house, but analysts said Mr Abe hoped to consolidate power over an opposition party which is in disarray.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says this month Mr 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, our correspondent adds.

Consumers not spending

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.

Mr Abe’s government had hoped the increase would boost income but instead Japanese consumers stopped spending.

Figures released on Monday showed the country 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.

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