Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday dissolved the lower house of parliament, setting the stage for snap elections middle of next month.
The move comes on the back of fresh data that showed the world's third-biggest economy slipping into recession in the third quarter, after a controversial sales tax hike that took effect in April battered consumption.
Abe this week postponed a second sales tax hike, initially scheduled for October 2015, by 18 months. The original plan was to raise consumption tax to 10 percent next year, after it was increased to 8 percent from 5 percent this year.
The dissolution effectively renders all 480 members of the lower house jobless. The cabinet later set the election date on December 14, according to NHK TV.
Abe's decision to call for an election confused many voters, as a poll is not needed for another two years. Plus, the sales tax hike was deeply unpopular and with the main opposition – Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) – weak, most expect his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to win regardless.
A Kyodo survey this week showed 25.3 percent of voters plan to cast ballots for the LDP in proportional representation districts, far more than the 9.4 percent who favor the DPJ.
"In a nutshell, [Abe is calling for elections] because he can. Opposition parties are in total disarray, his poll numbers are holding up pretty well. There's also the consumption tax hike that gives him a plausible excuse to hold one," Jun Okumura, visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told CNBC.