Japan's Abe orders ruling LDP to gear up for contentious snap election amid opposition criticism

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-19 15:25:51|Editor: liuxin
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TOKYO, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is gearing up to dissolve the lower house of parliament and call a snap general election, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai confirmed on Tuesday.

Prior to Abe's departure Monday for a five-day trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, Abe told Nikai during a meeting that he "will decide on the timing of the snap election after returning from the UN General Assembly on Friday."

Nikai on Tuesday, during a meeting of ruling LDP executives reportedly conveyed Abe's intentions and relayed to local media the party's determination to get all of its candidates fielded in the race elected.

Head of the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito party, Natsuo Yamaguchi, meanwhile, told a press briefing Tuesday that he would expedite plans for his party's participation in the election race, likening the political environment here to a "battlefield."

"We will start considering how to brace for the election, keeping in mind that we are always in a battlefield," Yamaguchi said.

Chairman of the Election Strategy Committee, Ryu Shionoya, said a solid structure would be established to ensure a victory, while Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida said that plans to draft a manifesto would be accelerated.

Abe, who also heads the LDP, is set to provisionally dissolve the lower chamber of Japan's bicameral system of parliament on Sept. 28, as this is when the extraordinary Diet session will be convened, according to LDP sources close to the matter.

This scenario would see official campaigning for the national poll kick off on Oct. 10, with voters thereafter casting their ballots on Oct. 22.

The opposition camp, however, has criticized Abe's move to call a snap election, with some accusing the Japanese leader of merely trying to escape from the influence-peddling scandals he is currently implicated in and simply engineering his own stay in power.

Chairman of the Democratic Party's Diet affairs committee, Kazunori Yamanoi, said Tuesday that it is "preposterous" that the prime minister is calling a snap election just because he senses the ruling block can leverage more power in the current political climate.

Yamanoi also told a press briefing Tuesday that it was "irresponsible" of Abe to dissolve the lower house of parliament at a time when the public is concerned about geopolitical issues facing Japan.

Main opposition Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara recently accused Abe of trying to dodge accusations of cronyism and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who has been linked to the formation of a new national party, previously said that she could not understand the "logic" and "purpose" behind Abe's move to call a snap election.

The support rate for Abe's cabinet has improved moderately recently, and the opposition camp has accused the prime minister of taking advantage of this and have slammed the possible general election as being unnecessary and serving Abe's personal, not political objectives.

In addition, the fact that new opposition parties in the process of being formed may not have time to fully organize themselves and mount a serious challenge to Abe and the LDP, has made many political watchers question Abe's regard for democracy and the will of the people.

Goshi Hosono, former environment minister who left the Democratic Party, and Masaru Wakasa, an ally of popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who's Koike's Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) won a monumental victory in July's Tokyo metropolitan assembly race, are set to launch a new party forthwith.

They will field candidates in all of 25 constituencies in Tokyo, Kyodo News quoted sources close to them as saying Tuesday.

Despite the time crunch, opposition parties have begun planning for the upcoming general election with both the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party holding executive meetings Tuesday to outline their strategies and policy offensives.

A lower house election must be held by December 2018 as 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 last 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, then three by-elections that have been slated to take place on Oct. 22 would be replaced by the general election.

Political watchers have stated that the potentially divisive issues of amending Japan's pacifist constitution and issues pertaining to Japan's security will be hotly debated in the upcoming election.