Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida declared victory on Monday after leading his ruling coalition to a solid majority in national elections.
Kishida, a soft-spoken centrist who has been in office for a month, vowed to boost the world’s third-largest economy with a new pandemic spending package that he said he would draft this month.
He also said that Japan “will take a leading role in working towards zero emissions in Asia” one day before it heads to Glasgow for the COP26 summit.
The Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) and its minor coalition partner Komeito won 293 of the 465 seats in the lower house of parliament, local media reported as the official result was finalized.
“They were very tough elections, but the will of the people was demonstrated, they want us to create the future of this country under the stable government of the PLD-Komeito and the administration of Kishida,” said the prime minister.
“We received a precious 261 seats for the PLD. As a responsible party … we will comply with the public mandate.”
Investors applauded the results, with the benchmark Nikkei stock index rising more than two percent after the ruling bloc capped its losses to beat predictions from exit polls.
The coalition had previously held 305 seats in parliament and the PLD 276 on its own.
Kishida took office a month ago after his predecessor Yoshihide Suga resigned just a year into his post, in part due to public discontent over his response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Japan has recorded around 18,000 virus deaths, a comparatively low figure for its population of 126 million, and has never imposed a blanket lockdown.
But many businesses, especially bars and restaurants, have suffered from prolonged periods of business restrictions.
Kishida said it would improve the health system’s ability to treat Covid patients and start booster injections from December.
He also promised to deliver “a large-scale economic stimulus” as soon as possible within this year, without saying how much it would be.
The 64-year-old has outlined plans to address inequality exacerbated by the business-friendly policies of his predecessors Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
The PLD has also pledged to increase defense spending to counter threats from China and North Korea.
Newspaper editorials on Monday urged Kishida to act decisively to shore up public support ahead of a key upper house vote next summer.
It needs to “fully prepare for a possible sixth wave of virus infections as soon as this winter,” and reaffirm how its economic policy ideas will work in practice, the Asahi Shimbun daily said in an editorial.
In recent decades, votes against the PLD have been divided among multiple major opposition parties, but this time five rival parties pushed for cooperation in an attempt to dent their dominance.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily said the ruling party had been “forced to fight tough electoral battles” across Japan.
But differences in key political positions between the two main opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Japanese Communist Party, especially over the country’s relationship with the United States, led to their defeat, the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, a surge in votes for the Osaka-based reformist Nippon Ishin party “of conservative voters who are frustrated with … the coalition government” pushed it to become the third-largest party after the PLD and CDP. Yomiuri said.
An estimated 56 percent of voters cast their votes, Japanese media said, a continuation of the low turnout rates that have plagued the country’s elections in recent years.