Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has called an early election, two years ahead of schedule.
At a news briefing, he said he would dissolve parliament later this week and is also delaying a planned but unpopular increase in sales tax.
Mr Abe was elected two years ago with an ambitious plan to revive the economy, but has struggled to do so.
His popularity has fallen but he is expected to win the election, which will take place in mid-December.
Analysts say Mr Abe is looking for a secure mandate ahead of introducing unpopular policies that could see his popularity fall even further.
The prime minister – who returned to power in December 2012 pledging to revive growth with a radical mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, spending and reform – insisted his policies were working and challenged the opposition to come up with an alternative.
“I am aware that critics say ‘Abenomics’ is a failure and not working but I have not heard one concrete idea what to do instead … Are our economic policies mistaken, or correct? Is there another option?” He asked at a televised news conference. “This is the only way to end deflation and revive the economy.”
But Abe pledged that the sales tax rise, needed to fund swelling social security costs and curb Japan’s massive public debt, would be implemented without fail in April 2017.
Abe is seeking to renew his mandate just as doubts about the success of his strategy are deepening.
No election for parliament’s lower house needed to be held until late 2016. But Abe is hoping to cement his grip on power before his support ratings, now below 50 percent in some surveys but still sturdy by Japanese standards, slip further.
His voter support took something of a hit from funding scandals in his cabinet last month, and next year he is expected to tackle unpopular policies such as restarting nuclear reactors that went off-line after the 2011 Fukushima crisis.