Though some in Japan’s ruling coalition hope for a snap lower house election this month while support remains high and opposition parties weak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems more inclined to spend his ample political capital on economic policymaking. “In these four days [since New Year’s], I have not thought at all” about dissolving the lower house for early elections, Abe told reporters Wednesday after his annual visit to the Ise Grand Shrine. Many in the government and the ruling coalition think the public would not support going to the polls now, given that Abenomics’ full promise remains unfulfilled. Lower house members’ terms are set to expire in December 2018. “We must escape deflation and put the Japanese economy firmly on a new path for growth,” Abe said at the news conference.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito hold better than a two-thirds majority in the lower house, past the threshold required to initiate amendments to the constitution or to override an upper house vote against a bill.
But the prime minister is concerned that the main opposition Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and others may form a united front ahead of the next election by coordinating in single-seat constituency races. Some LDP members worry the party could lose 30 to 40 seats depending on how things play out. Such worries have prompted calls for a snap election before the opposition has a chance to solidify.