Why call an election now? Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants a snap election on Dec. 14 to focus on his economic policies. Analysts and the opposition say it's really about political timing, maximizing his chances of getting a fresh mandate before his party's support weakens.
IT'S ABOUT ABENOMICS:
Abe frames the election as a referendum on his strategy to revive Japan's long-moribund economy. "The battle is now starting. The election is to decide whether the economic policies that we have been pushing should be pursued, whether they were wrong or right, and if there really is an alternative way."
BETTER NOW THAN NEXT YEAR:
Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, thinks Abe is seeking advantageous timing. "Next year we will be entering very serious parliamentary deliberations about collective self-defense. This is an issue that will probably divide the Japanese public and likely contribute to a drop in Prime Minister Abe's support rate. It's obvious he wanted to have elections before discussion on this sensitive topic began. Also I believe he thought it would be better to have an election while the economy seemed to be still fairly strong. I think he understands the economy will not be doing as well next year and the following year as last year."
WAIT, AND RISK SCANDAL:
Mieko Nakabayashi, a former Democratic lawmaker and international studies professor, says waiting has its risks. "It's too early to say whether Abenomics is successful. It's only been two years, and he's just starting to implement it. ... The biggest reason is for him is to maximize his opportunity to win a majority in the lower house. If he waits, his popularity goes down, and he can expect more scandals, more resignations of Cabinet ministers. ... It was certainly to prolong his life as prime minister."
Koichi Nakano, a politics professor who opposes efforts to weaken Japan's pacifist constitution, sees a potential return of nationalism if Abe gets what he wants. "Abe turned to the right and started to prioritize national security issues or history issues after he secured the majority in the upper house in summer last year. Before that, he was paying more attention to economic management, and that was when we heard most about Abenomics. It's ironic it's only now we hear again about Abenomics with the economic downturn, in fact, recession being back in Japan. But if he wins substantially, it is quite possible that Abe feels comfortable and complacent and focuses again on nationalistic issues rather than economic management of the country."