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Big win for Abe

December 14, 2014

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition has cruised to a major victory in parliamentary elections. However, many voters chose to stay at home.

Shinzo Abe Parlamentswahl in Japan
Image: Reuters/T. Hanai

Japan's NHK public television declared a resounding victory for the ruling coalition of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday. The result had been widely expected.

NHK reported that the coalition was assured of an unassailable two-thirds "super majority" in the lower house, giving them the power to override the upper chamber. It said Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and junior partner, the Buddhist-backed Komei party, would receive a combined total of more than 317 seats in the 475-member chamber.

The LDP is expected to slightly fall short of the 295 seats it held before the poll, at the expense of gains by minor parties. Results showed the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had won about 70 seats, up from 62. The Innovation party received approximately 41 seats, while the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) was on track to more than double its eight seats.

A mandate for 'Abenomics'

Abe called Sunday's snap election last month, as he prepares to push forward on several politically challenging fronts, not least his economic restoration program - known as "Abenomics." The 60-year-old Abe took office two years ago.

"We received a vote of confidence in the administration of the past two years. I will try to gain public support when carrying out policies, without being complacent," Abe said on television.

But despite this, Japan went into recession after an increase in the sales tax in April, from 5 to 8 percent. Before the election, Abe put off a second hike due next year for fear of derailing a recovery.

Final voter turnout is forecast to be a record low 52.4 percent, down from the 59.3 percent in the 2012 poll. Opinion polls before the election indicated many voters were planning to stay away, perplexed over Abe's decision to call an election halfway into his term.

Victory will give Abe a strong chance of pushing ahead with ambitious labor reforms and securing a trans-Pacific trade agreement - something that faces stiff opposition from the farm lobby and others.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda said the party needed to do more to regain public trust. The opposition party held power from 2009 to 2012 but its popularity plunged after it failed to deliver on campaign pledges. It also struggled to cope with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami nuclear disaster.

jr/pfd (AP, dpa, Reuters)