Japan's PM Shinzo Abe calls snap election

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Friday endorsed the government's plan to convene an extraordinary Diet session next Thursday, at which the premier is expected to dissolve the lower house for a snap election.

He denies allegations of cronyism and on Monday said dissolving the lower house was not an attempt at avoiding those allegations.

While the government and ruling coalition will now coordinate the timing of the Lower House election, indications are that it will likely be held on October 22.

The prime minister had been expected to face a grilling over the cronyism scandals during a session of parliament from Thursday and opposition party officials saw the move as a ploy to avoid hard questions.

Abe said the time for talking with North Korea is over because the Hermit Kingdom's leaders do not operate in good faith.

In the previous 2014 election, he lost to Kenji Eda, former deputy president of the main opposition Democratic Party, in the No. 8 constituency of Kanagawa Prefecture.

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Abe has served as Japan's prime minister for almost six years.

Other government sources have told Reuters Abe will pledge to use some of the revenue from a scheduled sales tax hike in 2019 to fund spending on education and child care. Also, opposition parties are regrouping and unprepared for an election.

Abe's approval rating has climbed to 50% from around 30% in July.

It's a significant turnaround from June, when the Liberal Democratic Party suffered a devastating loss in a Tokyo city assembly election to maverick Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's new regional party.

The ruling coalition now controls 68 percent of seats in the 475-member Lower House, including 288 for the LDP and 35 for its coalition partner Komeito, according to the parliamentary web site.

A new poll carried out by Japan's Kyodo news agency has shown that nearly two-thirds of voters are against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a snap election. The total number of seats is set to be cut to 465 in the next election as part of a reform aimed at reducing the excessive weight given to rural votes under the current system.

  • Rita Burton