PM Abe celebrates anniversary of Japan-China ties

Analysis: Yuriko Koike's new Party of Hope transforms Japan's political landscape

Japan's cabinet on Thursday announced October 22 as the date of a snap election where Abe, a conservative who returned to power in 2012, hopes a recent boost in voter support will help his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition maintain a simple majority.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a ceremony Thursday marking the anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and China as well as China's national day, in a display of his intent to improve delicate relations between the Asian neighbors.

But Abe's bet now looks increasingly shaky, given growing support for Koike's fledgling Kibo no To (Party of Hope) - launched this week - and the opposition Democratic Party's move to have its candidates leave the party and run on her ticket. It's no surprise that many within the DPJ's ranks are joining the Party of Hope and even encouraged to do so by the leader of the DPJ! Lower house members all stood up and chanted "banzai" three times in a dissolution ritual, then rushed out of the assembly hall.

"We need to fight for our children's future".

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.

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One could also add that by calling the election now, Abe cements his place at the helm of LDP party, ahead of the LDP presidential elections in September 2018. The Party of Hope has energised some voters, and is gaining renegade lawmakers from the main opposition party. A separate poll by the Asahi newspaper showed Party of Hope notching 13 percent and the LDP hitting 32 percent. Koike has so far been involved in the formation of the Japan New Party, the New Frontier Party, the Liberal Party and the New Conservative Party, and has sometimes been ridiculed as a "migratory bird" that changes with the wind.

Koike previously maintained a cautious distance from Abe, but she now has adopted a more confrontational stance. "If her party does better than expected, expect the long knives to come out in the LDP, and Abe could be ushered to the exit".

Koike, at a news conference, denied speculation that she might run for parliament herself.

But pundits say the charismatic former TV presenter, 65, could yet go all-in on her high-stakes gamble if she thought she could deflect criticism for ditching her current job after only a year.

In a poll by Kyodo News on Monday and Tuesday, JCP support was at 3.5 per cent, Komeito (the political wing of a large Buddhist organisation and ruling coalition partner) at 4.6 per cent, the Party of Hope at 6.2 per cent, the now defunct DPJ at 8 per cent and the LDP at 27 per cent.

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