Japan's Prime Minister Calls Snap October Election, Pushes New Stimulus Package

Japan's Prime Minister Calls Snap October Election, Pushes New Stimulus Package

North Korea is "a threat to all humanity" that requires a major escalation of worldwide sanctions and perhaps military action to bring the regime to heel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

Abe is expected to hold a press conference at 6 pm in Tokyo to announce the snap general election, according to Bloomberg reports.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of Abe's junior coalition partner the Komeito party, said he understood the election would be on October 22.

Abe has struggled with low approval ratings in recent months, but has seen an uptick following the recent heightened tensions with North Korea and the growing risk of nuclear proliferation in the region.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, ahead of Abe's decision, reportedly announced that she would move to formulate a new national party called "Party of Hope" to challenge the Japanese PM. "We must make North Korea abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner", he said. Opposition MPs said there is no need to hold elections now.

The prime minister said the snap election was called in an attempt "to deal with the biggest challenge facing Japan, which is the population aging and low birthrate".

Should he secure a fourth term in office, Abe's agenda would push forward a raise in sales taxes to 10% from 8%, the revenue from which would be directed into child care and education spending rather than working to pay off the country's debt. Also, opposition parties are regrouping and unprepared for an election.

In July, his ratings had dropped to less than 30% but then recovered to above 50% in September.

Over the weekend, a junior LDP cabinet minister, Mineyuki Fukuda, said he too would leave the ruling party to stand for election with Koike's new group.

However, a further 42.2% of voters surveyed said they were undecided - which adds a degree of uncertainty to the outcome, with one analyst not ruling out a "nasty surprise" for Abe's ruling party.

But he was given a lower house seat in the southern Kanto bloc through proportional representation.