A surge of popularity for a freshly minted opposition party in Japan is making Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to call a snap election look riskier than initially thought. Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament Thursday, setting the stage for an Oct. 22 vote. The Party of Hope, launched earlier this week by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, may not dethrone Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party but analysts say it could put a dent in the LDP’s majority. A major setback could derail Abe’s presumed hope to extend his rule for three more years at a party leadership meeting next year. Minutes after the lower house dissolution, Abe made a fiery speech to party members. He said he is seeking a public mandate on his tough diplomatic and defense policies to deal with escalating threats from North Korea, and that party members would have to relay his message to win voter support during the campaign.
“This election is about how we protect Japan, the people’s lives and peaceful daily life,” Abe said. “The election is about the future of our children.”
Abe’s decision to dissolve parliament is widely seen as an attempt to reconsolidate his hold on power within the LDP, after a series of scandals and missteps earlier this year. A big enough victory could help ensure his re-election as party leader in September 2018.