The Japanese Prime Minister’s gamble in calling an early election has paid off. Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition won a landslide victory. His Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, Komeito, have secured a two-thirds majority in the Lower House.
The parties won 326 of the 475 seats in the chamber. That’s well above the 317 needed to secure a two-thirds majority. And it means the ruling parties will be able to set their agenda for the Diet and see it through.
Even if the Upper House rejects a bill, Lower House lawmakers can override the decision with a two-thirds majority vote. And, the approval by a two-thirds majority in the Lower House is one of the prerequisites for amending the Constitution.
NHK is projecting the final voter turnout sank to a post-war low –at around 52 percent. That figure is 7 percentage points lower than in the 2012 Lower House election.
Our senior political commentator, Masayo Nakajima has insights on what the election means for Japan.
The coalition’s overwhelming majority in the Lower House means the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe, is certain to be re-elected as prime minister in the Diet. After that, Abe and his ruling bloc will be able to drive their policies forward with renewed confidence that they have the people’s support. This includes his economic policies under Abenomics. He made ending deflation his main priority when he took office nearly two years ago.
The prime minister has been pumping trillions of yen into the economy in the form of stimulus measures and the Bank of Japan has conducted monetary easing.
And when he called this election, Abe said he wanted voters to tell him whether Abenomics was right or wrong. He will likely come away from this vote feeling reassured. But his work to reshape the world’s third-largest economy is far from over. Japan’s GDP has slumped consecutively. The consumption tax hike from 5 to 8 percent in April is largely to blame. That’s why Abe put off the second tax hike to 10 percent until 2017. Abe says he wants to boost personal spending and revitalize local regions. But on the other hand, he’s promised to put Japan’s finances in order. He’s keenly aware that government debt is getting bigger and bigger. That’s why Abe promised not to postpone the second tax hike again in 2017.
Abe’s Liberal Democrats and their ruling coalition had a sizable majority ahead of this election. Abe could have continued to govern Japan…work on the economy, and delay the tax increase all without sending voters to the polls. But he was facing a falling support rating and declining GDP figures. And, he’s going to face a leadership election within his Liberal Democratic Party next year sometime in autumn. To remain as prime minister, Abe has to stay on as party leader. A decisive victory in this Lower House election lets him demonstrate to rivals within the LDP that he has a strong mandate from the public to continue to lead the country for another four years. Having secured a two-thirds majority in this election, Abe is expected to convene a special Diet session next week and then form his new cabinet.