With media speculation that elections may be called in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping that next week’s GDP data will help keep his economic plans on track. Yonggi Kang reports.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, YONGGI KANG, SAYING: "'Shinzo Abe to call a snap election next month.' That's making headlines in Japanese newspapers this week." It seems a bit strange because the prime minister is still enjoying relatively high public support and the stock market is rallying at around a seven-year peak. Reuters senior political correspondent Linda Sieg in Tokyo. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, LINDA SIEG, SAYING: "Now you have to remember it's extremely rare for lawmakers to go full term four years without an election. So once you pass the two-year point, which we're coming up on now for Abe's government, people start to wonder when the next election is going to be." With closely watched economic growth figures for the third quarter due on Monday, the possibility of elections being called could be even more real. Economists polled by Reuters give a median forecast of annualized 2.1 percent growth for the July-September quarter. Not bad if you consider that the world's number three economy showed its biggest contraction since the global financial crisis in the second quarter. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, LINDA SIEG, SAYING: "Next year, the prime minister will have to make some difficult decisions or push ahead with policies that are not very popular, such as restarting nuclear reactors, legislating changes in Japan's defense security policy, so I think one idea is that he should call an election now while his support rates are still relatively robust, because the danger is they're only going to slide further in the coming months." But regardless of whether Monday's GDP figures come above or below expectations, the prime minister will need to convince voters that the economy is well on track for a recovery.