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Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls snap election

26 September 2017, 12:43 | Gina Pena

Abe cabinet member defecting to join new opposition party

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike speaks during a press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office in Tokyo Monday Sept. 25 2017. Koike is launching a new political party to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party in national elections

The dollar was modestly firmer above ¥112 in late Tokyo trading on Monday, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to call a general election at an evening news conference.

The more powerful house in Japan's two-chamber parliament will be dissolved on Thursday when it convenes after a three-month summer recess, he announced.

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.

Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a Monday note prior to the confirmation of the snap election, that "members of the Abe administration and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party confirmed that there will be no progress on the IR Implementation Bill or the gambling addiction bill until next spring".

Kyoko Nakayama, leader of the small opposition Party for Japanese Kokoro, also met Koike the same day and expressed an intention to join the planned new party, a source close to the matter said. The opposition accused the prime minister of trying to stay in power while suppressing parliamentary debate on a number of contentious issues, including the favoritism scandals.

While the opposition in Japan now seems divided and weak, Abe's critics say he runs the risk of alienating voters by playing politics at time when the country faces a serious security threat.

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The ruling coalition now controls 68 percent of seats in the 475-member Lower House, including 288 for the LDP and 35 for its coalition partner Komeito, according to the parliamentary web site.

"I'll demonstrate strong leadership and stand at the forefront to face a national crisis", Mr Abe told reporters, mentioning Japan's fast-ageing population and North Korea.

The election on 22 October is a real hope for Ms Koike, a former LDP defence minister, her newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope) would be free of special interests. With regard to peace and stability in Africa, the Prime Minister reviewed the contributions of Japan, such as the deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Force engineering unit to South Sudan and its support for peacekeeping training centers in Africa.

That was higher than the 27.7% a Kyodo news agency survey showed voting for Abe's party, with 42.2% undecided. Meanwhile, it was "supported around ¥112" by firm stock prices, said an official at a foreign exchange brokerage house. He won a Minami-Kanto proportional representation bloc seat in the previous lower house election.

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