Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling bloc won big in the October 22 parliament elections. Local media reported that he secured a commanding majority for his party.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition has won a combined 310 seats, reaching a two-thirds “super majority” in the 465-member lower house, with 11 seats still up for grabs, broadcaster TV Asahi said.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, the win is expected to re-energise Abe’s push to revise the country’s US-drafted constitution. More specifically, Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. But Japanese governments have interpreted it to allow a military exclusively for self-defence.
“Now that pro-constitutional change parties occupy more than two-thirds of the parliament, the constitution will be the most important political issue next year,” said Hidenori Suezawa, a financial market and fiscal analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities.
“And as we saw in the UK… a referendum could be tricky. So while Abe is likely to be prime minister for the time being, it is too early to say whether he can stay in power until 2021.”
Abe declined to say if he’d run for a third term.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Abe had said he needed a new mandate to tackle a “national crisis” from North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and a fast-aging population, and to approve his idea of diverting revenue from a planned sales tax hike to education and childcare from public debt repayment.
“Day by day, we felt we were getting more voter support for our call to revive more decent politics, and not fret about whether it’s right or left wing,” said CDPJ lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama.
Several experts noted the ruling bloc’s win was less a victory for the conservative, long-ruling LDP than a defeat for a divided opposition.
“Simply put, this was the self-destruction of the opposition,” said Zentaro Kamei, a senior research fellow at think tank PHP Institute and former LDP lawmaker.
Shinjiro Koizumi, the LDP lawmaker son of popular former premier Junichiro Koizumi, warned against LDP complacency.
“It’s not just that our party has become arrogant and complacent. People are also getting increasingly fed up with us,” he told NHK.
Abe, 63, has already led the LDP and its partner, the Komeito, to four landslide wins since he took the helm of the party. But turnout has been low and the LDP has typically won with about 25% of eligible votes. Others either stayed home or backed opposition parties.