Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday called a snap election, as fresh opinion polls showed a fledgling conservative party led by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was gaining momentum ahead of the expected Oct. 22 vote.

Abe, a conservative who returned to power in 2012, is hoping a boost in his voter support in recent months will help his Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition maintain a simple majority. It currently holds a two-thirds “super” majority.

Koike’s new Party of Hope — only formally launched on Wednesday — has upended the election outlook after the former LDP member announced she would lead the group herself.

“This will be a tough battle, but it’s all about how we will protect Japan, and the lives and peaceful existence of the Japanese people,” Abe told a group of lawmakers. The cabinet will formally decide the date of the poll later on Thursday.

A number of opposition lawmakers boycotted a session at which the lower house was dissolved to protest Abe’s calling the election and creating a potential political vacuum at a time when tensions are high with North Korea.

Koike, a media-savvy former defense minister often floated as a candidate to become Japan’s first female prime minister…

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Read the full story at REUTERS.

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