PM Shinzo Abe′s party claims victory in Japan′s upper house | News | DW | 21.07.2019
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PM Shinzo Abe's party claims victory in Japan's upper house

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has claimed victory for his ruling bloc in Japan's upper house. However, Abe and his allies will apparently not reach the supermajority they need to amend Japan's pacifist constitution.

Public broadcaster NHK has reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, is forecast to secure at least 71 of the 124 seats up for grabs in Sunday's upper house election. 

In order to make constitutional changes, Abe needs a two-thirds supermajority of 77 seats in the upper house of parliament, which means he will need support from another conservative party and independent members to push ahead with controversial plans to amend the country's pacifist constitution.

Abe welcomed the results, saying his party's victory means voters back his policies.

"I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan's national interests," Abe said in an interview with NHK.

Read more: Record number of women to contest Japan elections

A voters casts a ballot in Japan's upper house election

Abe's party is unlikely to gain a two-thirds majority in the upper house

Official results aren't expected until Monday morning.

About 106 million people were eligible to vote, but pollsters indicated that the turnout could be lower than 50%.

Revision of constitution

A total of 370 candidates were vying for seats in the upper house, the less powerful of parliament's two chambers. The House of Councilors has 245 seats, with half of its lawmakers facing election every three years.

Abe's ruling bloc and its allies — the Japan Innovation Party and independents — were hoping to gain a two-thirds majority, or 85 seats, in order to begin the process of revising Japan's constitution.

Read more: Shinzo Abe's victory: A mandate to amend Japanese constitution?

The US-drafted document hasn't been amended since it was enacted in 1947, after the end of World War II. But Abe has said he wants to make changes to pacifist Article 9, which bans the maintenance of an army, before his term ends in 2021.

The issue has divided the public, with critics worried that legitimizing the military could lead Japan to get involved in US-led conflicts.

Abe pledged to revive the economy and boost defense when he took office in December 2012. The 64-year-old would become Japan's longest-serving prime minister if he stays in office until November.

Opposition parties argue that the ruling bloc has failed to tackle slowing economic growth, underemployment and the strained public pension system. Opponents have also warned of the impact of a sales tax hike set to come into force in October.  

nm, mkg/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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