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Japan: PM Abe expected to call snap election amid criticism by opposition

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He could serve until 2021 if reelected as party leader next year, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.

He denies allegations of cronyism and on Monday said dissolving the lower house was not an attempt at avoiding those allegations. Though he did not indicate a date, the vote is widely expected to be held on Oct 22.

Addressing the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Mr Abe said "there is not much time left" to take action on North Korea, which in recent weeks has detonated a sixth nuclear bomb and fired a series of missiles over or near Japan.

The Democratic Party and other opposition parties have started advancing their preparation for the election, exploring the possibility of promoting electoral cooperation to counter the ruling bloc.

Abe has served a total of nearly six years as prime minister: he had a truncated term a decade ago, and came back to power in a landslide in 2012.

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Abe will also tell his cabinet to compile a JPY2 trillion (US$17.8 billion) economic package by year-end, composed mostly of spending on child care and education, to cover the three years from April 2018 until sales tax revenue kicks in, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Monday.

It moved modestly above ¥112 later as traders were awaiting Abe's news conference as well as a speech by Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley later in the day. A weekend survey by the Nikkei business daily showed 44 percent of voters will back Abe's LDP with only 8 percent supporting the main opposition Democratic Party.

In an apparent bid to steal Abe's limelight, former TV anchorwoman Koike went before the cameras just hours before his news conference to announce she was creating a national political party called "Kibo no To" (Party of Hope). However, a similar number of Japanese voters - 42.5% - have said they're undecided going into next month's election.

The LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito control 323 seats, or more than two-thirds, in the Lower House. Reforms adopted previous year will cut the number of lower house seats to 465 from 475.

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