Abe sends legislators home in 'Abenomics dissolution'

Lawmakers cheer "Banzai!" at the Diet building as the House of Representatives is dissolved Friday afternoon.

The ruling and opposition parties headed into de facto campaigning on Friday afternoon after the dissolution of the House of Representatives in the day, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeking a public mandate to push forward his Abenomics economic policies.

"This dissolution is an Abenomics dissolution," Abe said at a press conference later in the evening. "It is an election that asks whether to proceed with Abenomics or stop it."

"The opposition parties say Abenomics has failed and repeatedly criticise it," he said. "Through an election campaign, I want to ask the people whether our economic policy is correct or wrong, or there are any other options."

In an extraordinary Cabinet meeting held after the lower house dissolution, the government decided to call an election on Dec. 14. The start date for official campaigning was set for Dec. 2.

The primary focus of attention in the first general election since December 2012 will be voters' evaluation of Abenomics, observers said.

The lower chamber was dissolved following a decision to do so at a Cabinet meeting held Friday morning. All the Cabinet members signed a document at the meeting approving the dissolution sought by the prime minister.

The Imperial dissolution rescript was then signed and sealed by the Emperor, and was read by House Speaker Bunmei Ibuki at a plenary session of the lower house at 1 p.m.

Abe was to hold a news conference Friday evening to reiterate his reasons for dissolving the lower chamber and holding a snap election.

To correct vote-value disparity, the number of single-seat constituencies in Fukui, Yamanashi, Tokushima, Kochi and Saga prefectures will be reduced from three to two, starting with the upcoming election.

A total of 475 seats will be contested in the election, consisting of 295 in single-seat constituencies and 180 in proportional representation blocs. Securing 238 seats will constitute a majority.

At a press conference Tuesday, Abe announced that the next increase in the consumption tax rate to 10 per cent would be postponed by 18 months from October 2015 to April 2017.

"When the government makes a weighty decision concerning the national economy, we must promptly seek a public mandate on the matter," the prime minister said.

Abe also said he "will explain the rationale for continuing with Abenomics through the election campaign." He plans to emphasise business recovery as an achievement of his second administration, which was inaugurated in December 2012.

The preelection strength of the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito stands at 326 - more than two-thirds of the total seats. This figure includes lower house Speaker Bunmei Ibuki, who was temporarily disassociated from his faction due to his position.

Abe has set a combined majority of 238 seats as the victory bar, saying, "If we cannot obtain a majority, that means Abenomics has been rejected [by the public] and I will step down."

Opposition parties are intensifying their offensives, insisting that Abenomics is a failure on the basis of negative growth in the gross domestic product between July and September, the second straight quarter of decline. But while they plan to break down LDP dominance, they have fallen behind in preparations for the upcoming election.