Spotlight: Opposition camp takes aim at Abe's plan to call snap election

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-18 19:48:00|Editor: liuxin
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TOKYO, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Japan's opposition camp on Monday took aim at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's possible decision to dissolve the lower house later this month and call a snap election.

Senior government and ruling party officials said a day earlier that Abe plans to call a general election most likely on Oct. 22 and conveyed his plan by phone to Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The phone conversation took place while Abe was in Russia, a senior ruling party official said.

Local media reported that Abe intends to dissolve parliament on Sept. 28 to pave the way for an election on Oct. 22

Abe told reporters prior to departing Japan to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York that he will decide whether to dissolve the lower house when he returns.

"I'll refrain from answering each and every question about a dissolution of parliament, but I'd like to decide when I return to Japan," the prime minister was quoted as saying at Tokyo's Haneda Airport before his departure.

The opposition camp has criticized Abe, however, with some accusing the Japanese leader as trying to escape from the influence-peddling scandals he is currently implicated in and trying to stay in power.

"Abe is simply fleeing from cronyism accusations," main opposition Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara told reporters, referring to allegations Abe helped a friend open a new veterinary school and was implicated in a cut-price land deal involving a nationalist school operator.

Maehara was suggesting that Abe calling a snap election was one way of avoiding a grilling in parliament over the scandals, which saw senior members of his party quit and his support rate tumble to historic lows.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has been linked to the formation of a new national party, said that she could not understand the "logic" and "purpose" behind Abe's possible move to call a snap election.

Political analysts, meanwhile, have said that Abe may be looking to capitalize on the main opposition Democratic Party's weak position at the moment, following a number of defections from the party by lawmakers and a high profile scandal that rocked the party just after Maehara took the helm at the beginning of September.

Analysts here have also said that a recovering support rate for his cabinet may also be prompting Abe to call a snap election, with the hopes of consolidating his party's grip on power in parliament, while not giving Koike enough time to properly carry out her objectives.

"There is also a real chance that a snap election would lead to his undoing. Calling a premature election more than a year ahead of the end of the term is purely on the basis of self-interested political calculation," Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, was quoted as saying on the matter.

A lower house election must be held by December 2018. This is when the four-year terms of current lower house lawmakers expire.

However, the prime minister has the authority to dissolve the lower chamber and call a general election at will.

Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament in November 2014 and thereafter led the ruling coalition to a sweeping victory in the following election in December.

If Abe goes ahead with his plan to call a snap election, three by-elections that have been slated to take place on Oct. 22 would be replaced by the general election.