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26 September 2017, 12:15 | Vera Richards
GETTYNorth Koreans watched the missile launch from their country last week
Speaking at a televised press conference on Monday, Abe said the election would be an appraisal of his spending plans ahead of a tax hike and his handling of the crisis on the Korean peninsula. His three-year term as party leader ends next September, and he will have to fend off any challengers from within the LDP to remain prime minister.
According to officials with the knowledge of Abe's ruling coalition's plan, the general elections will be set for October 22. The decision to call snap polls comes at a time when tension prevails over North Korea's missile launches over Japan. He said Monday that he will dissolve parliament on Thursday.
After lashing out at Pyongyang over its repeated provocations, Abe stated: "Elections that are the starting point of democracies should not be affected by any threats that may emerge from North Korea".
Analysts believe that given the lacklustre opposition, voter backlash would not hurt him to the extent that it did British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose gamble in June cost her party its majority.
As Mr Abe addressed reporters, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the Prime Minister's Office to demand his resignation.
Abe, in power for five years, had been expected to call the election for next month to take advantage of improved support and disarray in the opposition camp.
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Abe's approval rating has climbed to 50% from around 30% in July.
Although Abe is expected to triumph in the vote, there are question marks over whether he will retain the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to reform the constitution to strengthen Japan's military, one of his stated priorities.
The upcoming election was announced hours after Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, announced the formation of a new party that could give conservative voters an alternative to Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP). Reforms enacted previous year will reduce the number of lower house seats to 465 from 475.
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The Nikkei poll was more positive for Abe's prospects than a Kyodo news agency survey that showed his LDP garnering 27.7 percent support, with 42.2 percent undecided.
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