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Japan holds snap election as prime minister seeks stronger hand

October 22, 2017 -

October 22, 2017, JAPAN, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called a snap election amid rising tension over North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms program. He is bidding for a super majority for his conservative coalition in the now 275-seat lower house and for a stronger hand against volatile Pyongyang.

Pyongyang has fired ballistic missiles over Japan twice in the last month and conducted its sixth and biggest nuclear test on Sep 3

A super-majority from the election, moved forward from Dec 2018, would give him a platform for revising the post-war pacifist constitution to clarify the military’s role, a long-held goal. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) now governs in coalition with the Komeito party, the junior partner.

Abe also seeks to rebalance the social security system. The country’s worries about its aging population puts social security – and how to pay for it ¬– high on the election platform.

His coalition scored a convincing upper house election win in July, but faces a potential upset with the arrival on the scene of the new Party of Hope, which is led by popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike. Reuters notes that it has gained momentum as the biggest opposition Democratic Party said it would step aside to let its candidates run under her conservative, reformist banner.

Changes in the Diet in Jun 2017 might also influence the election results. They redrew Japan's electoral district boundaries and reduced the current 275 seats to 265.

Japan's Abe announces snap election amid worries over North Korea (Reuters Sep 2017)