Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, dissolved parliament Thursday, effectively kicking off a national election campaign where he faces an unexpected and formidable challenge from the popular governor of Tokyo.
Members of the lower house raised their arms and shouted “Banzai” three times — the Japanese equivalent of “three cheers” — after the speaker read out a letter officially dissolving the chamber.
Voters in the world’s third-biggest economy will go to the polls on October 22, as Abe seeks a fresh popular mandate for his hardline stance on North Korea and a new tax plan.
“A difficult battle starts today,” Abe told reporters, shaking his fist.
“This is an election about how to protect the lives of people,” said the premier. “We have to cooperate with the international community as we face the threat from North Korea.”
Abe asked for public support for his “strong diplomacy” on Kim Jong-Un’s regime, which has threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired missiles over its northern Hokkaido island twice in the space of a month.
“We need to fight for our children’s future.”