Amonth after he took over as Japan’s Prime Minister, the electorate has offered a collective bouquet to Fumio Kishida’s ruling LDP. The party has defied expectations and held its strong majority in Sunday’s parliamentary election, and allowed the incumbent to bolster his position.
Of course, Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) emerged with fewer seats in the powerful Lower House than it won in the last election in 2017. But the LDP maintained its single-party majority in a major victory for Kishida.
The result defied expectations and initial exit polls that had suggested the LDP, which allegedly mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, would need to rely on its junior coalition party for a majority. Kishida, a soft-spoken former banker who is accused by some of lacking charisma, is also likely to be emboldened by the triumph.
Having called the election soon after accepting the top post, he has abided by the traditional policies of the party’s right wing, and has tried to increase military spending. In parallel, he has also promised to address wealth inequality, projecting what he calls a “new capitalism” that has stoked concern among investors.
The LDP has claimed 261 seats against the 276 it held before the election ~ an absolute stable majority that will give it control of parliamentary committees and ease passage of legislation, including key budget proposals.
Kishida’s publicly stated goal had been for the coalition to keep a majority, at least 233 seats, of the 465 in the lower house, although that was widely seen as a modest target, given that its partner Komeito had 29 seats earlier. Together the LDP and Komeito secured 293 seats.
“The overall trend is in favour of stability. The LDP cleared the hurdles it absolutely had to,” said Tobias Harris, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
“We’ll see a lot of stimulus,” he said. Japanese stocks cheered the victory, with the Nikkei up 2.38 per cent soon after trading began. A poorer showing might have forced Kishida to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Yoshihide Suga in becoming another short-term Prime Minister.
The party did take some notable hits, including the loss by its secretary general, Akira Amari, in his single-seat district, and a former economy minister and the leader of one the party’s factions, Nobuteru Ishihara, who lost to an opposition candidate in a western Tokyo district.
But overall, it is a result that will please Kishida who has said the administration would attempt to compile an extra budget this year, in what would be a tight schedule.
“I hope to pass through parliament an extra budget this year,” he told reporters. This would involve funding steps to support people hit by the pandemic. A big winner was the conservative Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party, projected to more than treble its seats.