Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe explains why he will dissolve the Lower House during a news conference held on Sept. 25. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Opposition lawmakers and some voters were left flustered by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s portrayal of Japan as a nation in need of an election to deal with a “national crisis.”

Abe said at a news conference Sept. 25 that he would dissolve the Lower House as soon as it convened on Sept. 28. A snap election is expected to be held on Oct. 22.

He said he felt a need to gauge public opinion over major changes in how additional revenues would be used after the consumption tax rate is increased.

That tax hike, from the current 8 percent to 10 percent, is scheduled for two years from now, in October 2019.

“There was nothing convincing about it at all,” Seiji Maehara, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said of Abe’s explanation. “The consumption tax rate will not increase until two years in the future. Why does he have to dissolve the Lower House now?”

Ichiro Ozawa, the head of the Liberal Party, also said Abe failed to provide a clear explanation for the sudden dissolution of the Lower House.

According to the prime minister’s plan, the additional tax revenues would be spent to deal with the rapid graying of the population and the declining birthrate, developments that Abe described as a national crisis.

Abe used the same logic to explain why he was dissolving the Lower House in November 2014. But on that occasion, the major change Abe had in mind was to delay the consumption tax hike.

This time, Abe said he wanted to use about 2 trillion yen ($17.8 billion) in additional revenues to pay for early education and day-care programs.

Under the original plan, about 4 trillion yen in additional revenues would go toward paying off the national debt, with the remaining 1 trillion yen used to improve social security programs.

“Unless we sound out the public, we will not be able to move forward on a major reform that will split national opinion in two,” Abe said at the news conference.

However, the strengthening of social security programs can hardly be called a politically divisive issue.

Maehara has called for using the additional revenues from a consumption tax hike to improve the social security framework by, for example, spending public funds for some form of education.

There is not only no opposition from the Democratic Party, but also very little discussion within Abe’s own ruling Liberal Democratic Party over changing the way in which the additional consumption tax revenues are used.

Opposition lawmakers say Abe is dissolving the Lower House to avoid questions about political scandals that led to a plunge in his Cabinet’s support rates. He is also seen as eager to hold an election while the Democratic Party struggles to sort itself out under recently elected leader Maehara and with a new party led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike still in its infancy.

Abe has also cited North Korea’s series of military provocations as another national crisis that could only be dealt with after a vote by the public.

A 24-year-old graduate student in Sapporo said he was twice awakened by the J-Alert nationwide warning system when North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the southern part of Hokkaido.

He questioned whether emptying the Diet chamber is a smart move when North Korea is heightening its threats.

“As a Hokkaido resident, I am concerned, but I have doubts about holding a Lower House election when the North Korean situation is becoming more tense,” the student said.