Japan PM Shinzo Abe dissolves parliament for election
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dissolved parliament, paving the way for a snap election.
Mr Abe is seeking a new mandate for economic reforms and is delaying an unpopular increase in sales tax.
But opinion polls conducted by local media indicate low support for the PM and that many people do not understand why he has called an election two years ahead of schedule.
Japan will now head to the polls in mid-December.
The dissolution of parliament was announced in the lower house by Speaker Bunmei Ibuki on Friday morning.
Japan's legislature, known as the National Diet, comprises the upper House of Councillors and the lower House of Representatives.
Mr Abe is expected to hold a news conference later.
On Thursday, he said he would use the election campaign to clarify his government's growth strategy, reported national broadcaster NHK.
A Kyodo News agency survey on Friday found that about 63% of people did not understand Mr Abe's reasons for going to the polls early. A separate survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that only 39% supported Mr Abe.
Though his popularity has fallen, Mr Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are still expected to win the election because of the weakness of the opposition.
Mr Abe has said he will resign if his coalition - which holds the majority in the lower house - fails to win a simple majority.
Sales tax rise delayed
Mr Abe launched an ambitious economic plan, informally known as "Abenomics", two years ago when he became prime minister.
Though Japan's GDP growth initially saw a lift, the economy continued to slide and Japan entered a technical recession this quarter.
It was exacerbated by a rise in sales tax in April, from 5% to 8%.
The increases were aimed at curbing Japan's public debt which is the highest among developed nations, but instead scared Japanese consumers off spending.
A second increase, to 10%, was set for October 2015 but Mr Abe has said that will be delayed by at least 18 months.