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14 April 2024

Japan PM floats possibility of snap election before defence budget tax hike

By Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday floated the possibility of calling a snap election before a tax increase aimed at funding the country's defence budget comes into place "sometime after 2024".

The government is set to implement tax increases to cover a shortfall of 1 trillion yen in the defence budget, despite stiff opposition from within the ruling coalition amid Kishida's sagging popularity.

"We will be asking the general public to take on the (tax) burden for an appropriate period of time, starting from sometime after 2024 up to 2027. We'll make a decision on when it starts, and I think there could be an election by then," Kishida said in a late-night television programme aired on Tuesday.

The next national election is due by 2025, unless Kishida calls for a snap election.

Kishida revealed a new national security plan in mid-December and has pledged to double defence outlay to 2% of Japan's GDP by 2027.

The new defence plan requires an additional 1 trillion yen in funds that Kishida has said will be covered by an increase in taxes - a prospect that has triggered stiff opposition from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party at a time when Kishida's own public popularity is sagging.

LDP policy chief Koichi Hagiuda said on Sunday that it was necessary to dissolve parliament before tax hikes come into place to let the electorate make a judgement on the matter.