Japan's prime minister has told his party that he plans to call snap elections next month. At the same time, he said he would put off implementing a second sales tax increase.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told members of his Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday that he planned to seek a renewed mandate from the electorate, two years before the next election would normally have been held.
"Prime Minister Abe expressed his intention at an extraordinary board meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party that he would dissolve the House of Representatives," Jiji Press reported.
Abe's decision to call a snap vote had been widely expected, particularly after statistics released on Monday showed that Japan's economy had slipped into recession, something that has been widely attributed to a rise in the country's sales tax from 5 to 8 percent, which was introduced in April.
The prime minister also said on Tuesday that he would put off implementing the second phase of the sales tax increase, which is to take it to 10 percent, until 2017. It had been scheduled to take effect next October.
Abe was expected to hold a news conference later in the day, after meeting with the leader of the Liberal Democrats' coalition partner, the New Komeito.
While the decision to call a snap election halfway through his mandate may appear strange, coming on the heels of such bad economic news, Abe remains relatively popular with the voters, with a recent survey giving him an approval rating of around 50 percent.
pfd/ksb (AP, AFP)