Japan’s governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election Sunday imbued with meaning after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid uncertainty about how his loss may affect party unity.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito raised their combined share in the 248-seat chamber to 146 — far beyond the majority — in the elections for half of the seats in the less powerful upper house.
With the boost, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025, AP reports.
That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policies such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the U.S.-drafted postwar pacifist constitution.
A charter change proposal is now a possibility. With the help of two opposition parties supportive of a charter change, the governing bloc now has two-thirds majority in the chamber needed to propose an amendment, making it a realistic possibility. The governing bloc already has secured support in the other chamber.
Kishida welcomed the major win but wasn’t smiling, given the loss of Abe and the hard task of unifying his party without him. In media interviews late Sunday, Kishida repeated: “Party unity is more important than anything else.”
He said responses to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices will be his priorities. He said he will also steadily push for reinforcing Japan’s national security as well a constitutional amendment.
Kishida and senior party lawmakers observed a moment of silence for Abe at the party election headquarters before placing on the whiteboard victory ribbons next to the names of candidates who secured their seats.
Abe, 67, was shot while giving a campaign speech in the western city of Nara on Friday and died of massive blood loss. He was Japan’s longest-serving political leader over two terms in office, and though he stepped down in 2020 was deeply influential in the LDP while heading its largest faction, Seiwakai.