Japan’s Abe to Call Election for Oct. 22 as Support Rises

  • Voter approval rising amid tensions over North Korea
  • Early election cuts short new opposition party’s preparations

Shinzo Abe

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call a general election for Oct. 22, according to three people with knowledge of his ruling coalition’s plans, seeking to take advantage of a recovery in support and nip in the bud a challenge from a new opposition party.

Heightened tensions with North Korea have helped restore voter approval damaged by a series of scandals, and may help Abe retain his coalition’s two-thirds majority in the lower house. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s campaign will focus on a pledge to increase education spending by putting off a target for reining in the budget deficit, as well as a more divisive plan to revise the pacifist constitution, according to domestic media reports.

While the main parliamentary opposition Democratic Party is splintering, Abe faces a wild card challenge from a new national party being set up by an associate of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. The capital’s leader defected from the LDP, then thrashed it in a July election for the metropolitan assembly.

Abe has served a total of almost six years as prime minister: he had a truncated term a decade ago, coming back to power in a landslide in 2012. He could serve until 2021 if re-elected as party leader next year, making him the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history.

— With assistance by Isabel Reynolds

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