The ruling coalition of Japan’s prime minister prepares to retain power but lose parliamentary seats

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling PLD defied expectations and held onto the majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, exit polls showed, solidifying his position in a rogue party and allowing him to increase stimulus.

While Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was projected to emerge with fewer seats in the powerful lower house than it won in the last elections in 2017, the party retained its majority, exit polls from NHK public broadcaster early Monday morning.

The result was at odds with expectations and initial exit polls that suggested the PLD could lose an outright majority. Kishida, a soft-spoken ex-banker who struggled to shake an image that he lacks charisma, is also likely to be emboldened by victory.

The vote was a test for Kishida, who called the elections shortly after taking office earlier this month, and for the powerful party, which has been plagued by perceptions that it mishandled the coronavirus pandemic.

“The general trend is in favor of stability. The PLD overcame the hurdles it had to do,” said Tobias Harris, principal investigator at the Center for American Progress.

“We will see a lot of stimulus,” he said.

Poorer performance would have raised expectations that he could follow his predecessor Yoshihide Suga to become another prime minister in the short term.

The party took some notable blows, including the loss of its secretary general, Akira Amari, in his one-seat district. Amari, a key Kishida supporter, intended to resign from the party, NHK said.

Kishida has stuck to the party’s traditional right-wing policies, pushing for increased military spending, but has also vowed to tackle wealth inequality, promoting a “new capitalism” that has stoked concern among investors.

The PLD was expected to have won at least 253 lower house seats by early Monday, NHK said, comfortably surpassing the 233 needed for a majority. He held 276 before the election.

Stable majority

The PLD and its lesser coalition partner, Komeito, obtained more than 261 requirements for a “stable absolute majority” that gives the coalition command of parliamentary committees, making it easier to pass bills.

Kishida said the administration would try to compile an additional budget this year, in what would be a tight schedule.

“I hope that the parliament will pass an additional budget this year,” he told reporters.

This would involve funding measures to support people affected by the pandemic, such as those who lost their jobs and students struggling to pay tuition.

A big winner was the conservative Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party, which is projected to triple its seats and overtake Komeito as the third force in the lower house, after the opposition Democratic Constitutional Party of Japan.

The emergence of the Osaka party as a national force may complicate Kishida’s promise to roll back neoliberal economic policies.

The Innovation Party is “really taking the Osaka region by storm. They have emerged as a major conservative bloc,” said Yoichiro Sato, professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. “They are going to block Kishida’s new capitalist idea of ​​narrowing the income gap between rich and poor.”

Kishida’s publicly stated goal had been for the coalition to retain a majority, at least 233 seats, of the 465 in the lower house, although that was seen as a low goal, given that Komeito had 29 seats before the elections.

One of the most notable defeats of the PLD was that of a former economy minister and leader of one of the party’s factions, Nobuteru Ishihara, who lost to an opposition candidate in a western district of Tokyo.

The generally divided opposition was united, with a single party, including the widely rejected Japanese Communist Party, facing the coalition in most districts.

Some voters, such as Yoshihiko Suzuki, who voted for the leading opposition candidate in his district and the Communists in proportional representation, hoped the poll could teach the PLD a lesson.

Suzuki, 68, a retiree, said the PLD’s years in power made it complacent and arrogant, underscored by a series of money scandals and cronyism.

“I hope this election is a wake-up call for them,” he said. “If it does, the PLD will become a better party, considering how many talented legislators it has.”

(REUTERS)

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