September 25, 2017 9:55 pm JST

North Korea to be central theme of Abe campaign

Snap election to force 'breakthrough amid national crisis'

MASAYUKI YUDA, Nikkei staff writer

After calling an election next month, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make North Korea and government spending key themes in his campaign. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to face another test of his leadership after calling a snap election in less than four weeks.

As he officially announced that he would dissolve the lower house at a news conference on Sept. 25, he highlighted the situation in North Korea as the most important focus for his campaign. The election comes at a time of relentless provocation from Pyongyang in the form of repeated missile launches and nuclear tests.

The lower house will be dissolved at the beginning of the extraordinary Diet session starting Sept. 28. The campaign period gets underway on Oct. 10 and polling day is set for Oct. 22.

"By holding an election at a time like this, I would like to test our public mandate on actions against North Korea," Abe said. "The decision to hold an election -- the very source of democracy -- should never be affected by North Korea."

Another issue that will be central to his campaign is how to use the revenue generated by a hike in consumption tax scheduled for October 2019. "We have always tested our mandates when we amend the promises we have made on tax," he stated as justification for the decision.

The prime minister plans to partially reassign the additional revenue from paying off government debt to making a progress on his "revolution in productivity and human resources development," which he has described as the biggest challenge facing Abenomics.

Abe also revealed that a 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) stimulus package would be prepared by the end of the year.

Diverting the funds, however, would make "achieving the primary balance surplus by fiscal 2020 difficult," he said. "But we will never haul down the flag of fiscal consolidation."

Abe has called the election to force a "breakthrough amid a national crisis." He needs a combined 233 seats in the lower house for the ruling LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito. "If the majority is not reached, I will resign," Abe said.

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