Tokyo, Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s snap poll gamble pays off as his ruling coalition is reportedly headed for a big win in Sunday’s election, bolstering his chance of becoming the nation’s longest-serving premier and re-energizing his push to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition has won a combined 310 seats, reaching a two-thirds “super majority” in the 465-member lower house, with 11 seats still up for grabs according to media reports.
That will mean that Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012, will have a third three-year term as LDP leader next September and go on to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.
Final official results from the election, which coincided with an approaching Typhoon Lan, are expected early on Monday.
Abe’s snap poll gamble had seemed risky – some early forecasts saw the LDP losing a significant chunk of seats – after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, often floated as a possible first Japanese female premier, launched her conservative Party of Hope.
That party absorbed a big chunk of the failed main opposition Democratic Party, which abruptly decided to run no candidates of its own. But voter enthusiasm soon waned despite its calls for popular policies such as an exit from nuclear power and a freeze on the planned sales tax rise.
EARLIER: Voters Not Deterred By Typhoon Lan In Japan’s Snap Elections – Voters will deliver a verdict on the five-year-old administration of 63-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with today’s (Sunday) snap election, as opinion polls show he is widely expected to receive a fresh mandate, cruising to victory with a ruling coalition majority in parliament that will help him consolidate his grip on power. This is despite a surprise challenge from populist Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
Up for grabs Sunday are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Abe dissolved the chamber less than a month ago, apparently judging that the political environment turned in his favor.
Scare over North Korea’s missile and nuclear development is also seen prompting their conservative choice.
An election victory would boost Abe’s chances for another three-year term as head of his Liberal Democratic Party next September, extending his premiership.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Lan barrelled toward Japan today, with heavy rain triggering landslides and delaying voting at one ballot station as millions struggled to the polls for the national election.
Typhoon Lan, described as “very large and very strong” by Japan’s meteorological agency, was packing gusts up to 252 kilometres per hour this morning in the Pacific south of Japan. Bringing strong winds and heavy rain, the storm was moving northeast, possibly directly hitting Tokyo or surrounding regions Monday morning.
The weather agency warned of high waves, landslides and floods in central and western Japan, urging residents in those regions to take immediate precautions to ensure their safety.
Voting was delayed by some 20 minutes in Kochi, western Japan, as landslides blocked a road, preventing election officials from arriving in time at a polling station, according to state media.
On Saturday, voters on remote southern islands in the path of the storm cast their ballots early, heeding a call from Abe. Turnout has declined to below 60 per cent in the last two general elections. The last vote in December 2014 saw a record-low rate of 52.66 per cent.