Tokyo, Japan: 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.