Japan's Abe announces snap elections amid high approval ratings
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has announced snap elections and said parliament would be dissolved on Thursday. Abe also announced a $17.8 billion stimulus package on education, debt reduction, and social spending. His election announcement appears to be an attempt at capitalizing on his currently high approval ratings even as the opposition remains largely in disarray.
Abe hasn't set a date for the elections but Japanese media suggest it could be October 22. He said the stimulus package would fund programmes essential to prepare Japan for future challenges. He vowed to forge ahead with his fiscal reform agenda, saying he'd balance the budget and reduce debt through revenue earned in the recently announced sales tax.
In July, Abe's approval ratings stood at below 30% because his government was hit by a string of scandals and unpopular policies. His ratings have surged to 50% in September thanks to his handling of North Korea's regular ballistic missile and nuclear tests. Experts believe the snap elections are meant to exploit his resurgent popularity. Meanwhile, Abe continues to dodge allegations of cronyism.
As per his current approval ratings, Abe is expected to retain his position as prime minister. The victory of Abe's coalition government would make him Japan's longest-serving post-World War-II leader. However, Abe's coalition needs to secure a two-thirds majority if the PM wishes to fulfill his agenda to revise the Japanese Constitution to move away from his country's longstanding pacifist defense policy.