Japan PM Fumio Kishida's coalition wins general election

Published : November 01, 2021 16:29 IST

Fumio Kishida is expected to stay on as prime minister, but his party will likely take a drubbing. Photo: Issei Kato/REUTERS

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's conservatives and their junior coalition partner lost seats but remained in power.

Japan's ruling coalition will stay in power after winning the country's general election on October 31, early results showed. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito won 280 seats in preliminary results revealed late on October 31, with some seats still undecided.

Japanese state broadcaster NHK said the LDP alone will have won at least 253 seats in the lower house as of early on November 1. "It was a very tough election, but the people's will -- that they want us to create this country's future under the stable LDP-Komeito government and the Kishida administration -- was shown," Kishida said early on November 1.

What do the election results mean?

With Komeito's 27 seats, the coalition has surpassed the 233-seat parliamentary majority. It also overcame the 261-seat threshold for an absolute majority which allows it to push through legislation by giving the government a majority in 17 standing committees and chairperson posts.

While the LDP fell short of the 274 seats it won alone in the previous election, it maintained the hold on power it has had almost continuously since the 1950s. "The lower house election is about choosing a leadership," Kishida told NHK. "With the ruling coalition certainly keeping the majority, I believe we received a mandate from the voters."

LDP Secretary-General Akira Amari said he intends to resign after losing his seat, public broadcaster NHK said on November 1. TV Asahi had earlier predicted the coalition to win 280 seats, down from its previous total of 305.

According to media reports, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) increased its share of seats from the 109 it won at the previous election. The biggest election winner was the Osaka-based conservative Innovation Party, predicted to treble its seats and even beat Komeito to third place in parliament. Yoichiro Sato, a professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, told Reuters news agency "they are going to block Kishida's new capitalism idea of narrowing the rich-poor income gap."

Kishida's first public test

October 31's vote was the first test for Kishida who took over as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party a month ago. Kishida became party leader and prime minister after Yoshihide Suga resigned after just one year into the job. The LDP-led government has faced criticism for its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new government will face the task of steering the world's third-largest economy, battered by the pandemic, tackling a fast-aging and dwindling population and security challenges from China and North Korea.

Kishida called the election soon after taking the top job to shore up his mandate in the lower house. The LDP previously boasted a commanding majority of 276 seats on its own. The 64-year-old premier did not have a political honeymoon, with his approval rating lagging at around 50 per cent, the lowest for a new administration in two decades. He has promised to issue a fresh stimulus package worth tens of trillions of yen to counter the impact of the pandemic.

Stability or return to revolving-door era?

A weakened majority for the LDP could mean further losses in the upper house election next summer. While the LDP has held power almost continuously since the 1950s, only five politicians have hung on to the prime minister's office for five years or longer. A poor showing could embolden Kishida's rivals within the party, threatening to return Japan to an era of short-lived administrations.

Public criticism of COVID-19 response

Public discontent has been growing over the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Japan initially lagged behind other developed nations in the vaccination drive, but it soon caught up and now more than 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

While infections have dropped sharply, some voters remain wary. "It's hard to say the pandemic is completely snuffed out and society is stable, so we shouldn't have any big changes in coronavirus policy," said Naoki Okura, a doctor, after voting in Tokyo. "Rather than demanding a change in government, I think we should demand continuity."

mm, adi/sri (AFP, Reuters, dpa)