Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has secured a commanding victory in early parliamentary elections held on Sunday. Abe had called for the early vote to reinforce his mandate amid a growing security crisis with North Korea.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was on track to win 311 seats - 25 more than it currently holds - in the 465-seat chamber in the lower house of parliament, according to the latest projections from TBS, a private broadcaster.
That would give it a super-majority with the authority to amend Japan's post-war constitution that was imposed by the United States and requires Tokyo to "renounce" war and limit its military role. Other broadcasters, however, are predicting the LDP will fall just short of the super majority mark.
Abe attributed the victory to voters' support for his policies.
"I think the results reflected the voters' preference for a solid political foundation and their expectations for us to push polices forward and achieve results," Abe told Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
"I will humbly face the victory and continue to work humbly and sincerely," he said.
The new center-left Constitutional Democratic Party fared slightly better than expected but finished far behind Abe.
"The LDP's victory is simply because the opposition couldn't form a united front," said political scientist Mikitaka Masuyama from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
The vote took place amid a powerful typhoon with sustained winds of 180 km per hour (110 mph) raking the island-nation.
Abe called the snap election last month and the 12-day campaign was dominated by North Korea and the economy.
It was, in effect, a verdict on Abe's nearly five years in power as Japan election campaigns kick off. Since taking office in December 2012, he has sought to reboot Japan's defense by revising the country's post-war pacifist constitution.
Polls show that Abe's LDP and its coalition partners are likely to retain the two-thirds "super majority" they had in parliament before it was dissolved.
Supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party braved inclement weather to join at a rally led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the party's leader
Abe had called for snap elections in September, saying he needed a new mandate to tackle a "national crisis" that included the threat of North Korea's nuclear program and a fast-ageing population.
The 63-year-old premier has led the LDP to successive landslide wins since assuming leadership of the conservative party in 2012. However, turnout has diminished in the last two elections, dropping to a dismal 52.7 percent in December 2014.
"The situation in the world is not stable in many aspects and I believe the LDP is the only party to rely on," said 78-year-old Kyoko Ichida after casting her vote in Tokyo.
While the powerful Typhoon Lan isn't expected to make landfall in central Japan until early Monday, the storm still affected voting.
Landslides brought on by Lan's heavy rain blocked roads and prevented election officials in western Japan from arriving in time to open a polling station. The incident caused a 20-minute delay in Kochi, reported Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that Lan could cause major flooding in some parts of the country. The storm is expected to drop up to 60 centimeters (24 inches) of rain and produce waves of up to 12 meters (39.4 feet) in the Izu islands.
bik,ls/ng (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)