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Win projected for Japan ruling coalition

December 14, 2014

Seconds after polls closed in Japan, television projections gave the ruling party a two-thirds majority in the lower house elections. Exit polls have been a reliable predictor of final results in previous elections.

Wahl in Japan 14.12.2014
Image: Reuters/T. Peter

The exit polls indicated a comfortable re-election for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with his ruling Liberal Democrat (LDP) coalition taking a majority in the lower house despite a low voter turnout.

Broadcaster TBS projected 294 seats for the LDP and 34 for the junior partner Komeito: a combined total of 328 seats in the 475-seat lower house.

Abe called Sunday's snap election for the lower house, saying that he wanted a fresh mandate for his "Abenomics" strategy of easy monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. He said he would step down if the Liberal Democrats lost their majority.

Turnout in Tokyo was just 26 percent of registered voters by midafternoon Sunday. That was lower than for the last elections in 2012, when nearly 32 percent of voters turned out.

Boost to reform course

"I think Mr. Abe is the only choice we have considering from what I heard and saw in the reports," retiree Hiroshi Yamada said as he left a Tokyo polling station.

The opposition Democratic Party held power from 2009 to 2012 but only fielded 198 candidates for Sunday's election against the ruling Liberal Democrats' 352 candidates.

Opinion polls ahead of the election indicated many voters were planning not to vote. Heavy snow in northern Japan was also reported to be an obstacle to voters' reaching polling stations.

Victory should improve Abe's chances of pushing ahead with ambitious political and economic reforms. Before the election he had put off an unpopular sales tax rise for next year for fear of derailing a recovery.

The result may also encourage Abe to revise Japan's pacifist constitution to ease limits on the military.

jm/tj (AP, AFP)