Japan's Abe wins majority of seats in upper house

22 Juillet, 2019, 01:02 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Japan's Abe wins majority of seats in upper house

Up in the air, however, is whether the ruling bloc and its allies will keep the two-thirds "super majority" needed to begin the process of revising the constitution's pacifist Article 9 to further legitimize the military, a controversial step.

NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining.

"I believe that the people of Japan have made the judgment that we should carry out policies firmly based on a stable political foundation, and that we should carry out diplomacy based on that foundation and protect national interests", Abe said.

At a polling station in Tokyo's Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe's 6 1/2-year rule.

With the results, the 64-year-old Abe, who is on course to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister, aims to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington.

But early returns and exit polls indicated that the three parties would fall short of the 85 seats needed for the two-thirds majority.

Local media predict that forces in favour of revising the constitution, led by Abe's LDP, are likely to win close to 85 of the seats up for grabs, giving them a "supermajority" in the chamber. There are 245 seats in the upper house - which does not choose the prime minister - about half of which are elected every three years.

Opposition parties focused on voters' finances, including a potential hit on spending from an October rise in the sales tax to 10% and strains in the public pension system due to Japan's quickly ageing population.

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Against an increasing nuclear threat from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China, Abe has already been able to expand Japan's military capacity and pass a law that allows Japan to defend its allies. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.

Simply having a two-thirds majority would not guarantee Mr Abe's constitution change bid, given differences among parliamentarians on what exactly should be changed, political analysts noted.

Abe was hoping to gain enough upper house seats to boost his chances for constitutional revision, his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.

But Abe and his conservative backers face challenges because voters seem more concerned about their jobs, the economy and social security.

Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University in Tokyo, said the voters in Japan are not interested in the constitutional revision, with recent surveys suggesting that only seven percent thinks it is a priority.

The main opposition Constitution Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) was set to increase its seats but remain dwarfed by the LDP, exit polls showed.

Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russian Federation would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term. They have also stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues - the areas Abe's ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.

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