Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe
Tokyo, Sep 25

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday called an early election as he seeks to secure a stronger mandate to overcome "a national crisis" amid rising threats from North Korea.

Abe's decision comes amid rebounding approval ratings after a record low over the summer and with the opposition largely in disarray. In a national address, the leader said he would also dissolve Parliament's Lower House on Thursday, the Japanese media reported.

"Elections are the basis of democracy, and they should not be affected by threats from North Korea. Rather, I think this is an appropriate time to hold an election and seek the mandate of the people for how I am dealing with North Korea," Abe was quoted as saying by Japan Broadcasting Corporation NHK.

Abe did not set a date for the vote but Japanese media suggest it will be on October 22.

The move comes one year before scheduled elections and amid a stronger showing in opinion polls for Abe who has seen gains for his response so far to North Korea. Pyongyang has fired two ballistic missiles over northern Japan in recent weeks, as it steps up missile tests amid a deepening regional crisis.

"We must not give in to the threat of North Korea. I hope to gain the confidence of the people in the upcoming election and push forward strong diplomacy," he said.

The country's 48th General Election comes after a shaky time for Abe and his government, which was wracked by two corruption scandals linked to the Prime Minister and his wife, and the resignation of Defence Minister Tomomi Inada over an alleged cover-up.

Abe, who has held power for five years, has seen his popularity fall significantly in the wake of the scandals. His decision to call a snap election, analysts say, is aimed taking advantage of a recent uptick in ratings.

The Prime Minister also announced a $17.8 billion stimulus package on education and social spending. He said a fresh stimulus was needed for programmes to prepare Japan for the future.

Abe also said he would continue on his path of fiscal reform and would use the revenue from the recently introduced sales tax to balance the budget and reduce debt.

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