TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s lower parliamentary chamber was dissolved Friday ahead of a mid-December general election that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says will be a referendum on his faltering “Abenomics” economic growth blitz.
Following the dissolution, the premier’s cabinet confirmed the election will be held on Sunday, December 14, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo’s top spokesman. Later, Abe told reporters at his office that the vote will be “an election to ask if we should push for Abenomics or stop it”.
Abe, who is going to the polls less than half way through a four-year term, earlier said he wanted voters’ endorsement for his decision to postpone a sales tax rise slated for next year, after data this week showed an earlier levy hike knocked the world’s number three economy into recession.
“Finally, the fight will begin,” Abe told fellow politicians on Friday who cheered in response to the remarks in parliament.
“Let’s fulfil our responsibility to make Japan a country that once again shines at the centre of the world. I promise to take the lead so that all of you here will be elected. Let’s grab a win together.”
On Thursday, Abe acknowledged he could be facing a “tough election”.
“I want to clarify if the growth strategy we are pushing is right or wrong,” he told a business audience in Tokyo.
But most commentators agree that the election is a fig leaf to cover Abe’s attempt to consolidate his own position within his fractious Liberal Democratic Party, and to fend off challengers in a party leadership election scheduled for September next year.