[JURIST] Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official profile] has dissolved the lower house of parliament [official website], enabling an early election to see how the public views his struggling economic policies. Abe had called for the election to be held on December 14. He is seeking [BBC report] a new mandate for economic reforms and is delaying an increase in sales tax that has little support. He has been heavily pressured to increase the sales tax in order to take steps to address Japan’s enormous public debt. When addressing [Guardian report] the public on Tuesday, he noted that the increase from 8 to 10 percent, would be delayed until April 2017, 18 months later than originally planned. “I’ve listened to lots of opinions … and taking those into account, and to ensure that Abenomics will succeed, I decided today to postpone the consumption tax hike by 18 months to April 2017,” Abe said. The December election will be occurring two years earlier than it should have, and is being treated as more of a mid-term referendum.
Abe moved to have the early election the day after it was announced that Japan was in a recession for the first time since 2012. Japan’s output shrank [Guardian report] by 0.4 percent from July to September (third quarter), and the cabinet office noted that the economy was shrinking at a rate of 1.6 percent per year. The same office had predicted an annual growth of approximately 2.0 percent. This has been the biggest fall [BBC report] in the economy of the country since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The sales tax had originally been increased in April from 5 to 8 percent, which hit growth in the second quarter and is still having impact on the economy.