Japan’s ruling coalition scored a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday as the nation was still reeling two days after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Results showed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito winning more than 70 of the 125 seats in play for the House of Councilors, the upper house of the National Diet of Japan, the Kyodo news agency reported.
That outcome allowed the coalition to hold a majority in the 248-member upper chamber, giving Kishida a comfortable victory and strengthening his grip on power after all of Japan’s parties had vowed not to yield to political violence.
Kishida had the solid backing of Abe, an LDP member whose clout remained formidable after nearly eight years in office.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister who retired from the office almost two years ago after a bout with health problems, was shot dead Friday at a train station in western Japan while making a campaign speech for a parliamentary candidate.
Abe was best known for his “Abenomics” reforms that were meant to shake Japan out of its decades-long stagnation, as well as his quest to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Abe had inherited a mission from his grandfather and former Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi: to remove the constraints imposed by the United States—with the help, partly, of the Japanese political class—on Japan’s ability to exercise power on the world stage, particularly its postwar constitution and “peace” clause that restricted Japan’s military power.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Asia was altered to include a visit Japan on Sunday, State Department officials said. Following his attendance at a G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and a meeting with Thai officials in Bangkok, Blinken was set to travel to Tokyo to “offer condolences to the Japanese people on the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and to meet with senior Japanese officials.”UPI
A majority result for the LDP-Komeito coalition has boosted an effort to amend Japan’s constitution for the first time since it was established in 1947.
Toshimitsu Motegi, the LDP’s secretary general, said last month he would seek to initiate the amendment process shortly after the House of Councilors election should the ruling bloc win.
The post-war constitution forbids the country from maintaining “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential,” but Abe had sought revisions under which Japan’s Self-Defense Forces would be explicitly allowed in its text.
If approved by the Diet, the proposed amendment would be put before voters in a national referendum.