Fumio Kishida secured an unexpectedly large victory for the Liberal Democrats in the parliamentary elections in Japan, despite a nationwide fatigue against the almost decades-long seizure of power by the ruling party.
The LDP retained the majority in the lower house of the state parliament and spared the new prime minister a humiliation that would have endangered his leadership.
Markets in Japan rose Monday, with the Topix climbing as much as 1.8 percent in morning trading as investors welcomed greater prospects of stable government.
But the races for many party leaders have been extremely close, a measure of voter frustration with the long LDP rule. Akira Amari, LDP general secretary and architect of Japan’s new “economic security strategy,” lost his constituency seat and told Kishida that he would step down, according to NHK, the state broadcaster.
NHK said the LDP had won 261 seats, up from 276, but enough to maintain one-party control of the 465-seat House of Commons. His coalition partner Komeito took 32 seats out of 29.
The main beneficiary of the election was the center-right Japan Innovation, which nearly quadrupled its representation to 41 seats after a campaign focused on pressure for regulatory reform.
âI am very grateful for the mandate I have won. The one-party majority in the LDP also means that the public accepts us, âKishida told reporters on Sunday evening.
Kishida won the LDP leadership race in late September, despite its low popularity, by promising stability and appealing to the party’s powerful factions and figures, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He dissolved the House of Commons shortly after his appointment as prime minister earlier that month and relied on a quick election victory to push through his economic and national security initiatives.
âHe was pursuing a strategy necessary to become Prime Minister by establishing friendly relations with Abe. But he will now focus on bringing out his own colors, âsaid Mieko Nakabayashi, professor at Waseda University.
After almost nine years under Abe and his unpopular successor Yoshihide Suga, many Japanese had sought a clear break. This was undermined, however, by Kishida’s decision to appoint veterans like Amari to influential government roles and his failure to project the promised new image.
“I wanted to change the LDP’s one-party dictatorship,” said Yoshifumi Uchiyama after voting for the Democratic Party for the People, a small opposition party, at a polling station in Chiba. The 31-year-old employee in the financial services industry chose the LDP in the last election.
The LDP, along with Komeito, has dominated the polls since Abe led the party to an overwhelming victory in 2012, raising hopes of economic recovery and ending a revolving door of prime ministers.
In these elections, however, Japan’s long-fragmented opposition camp showed a greater sense of togetherness to capitalize on the frustration that has built up over the LDP’s time in power.
The five opposition parties ran a single candidate in 213 of the 289 first constituencies. As a result, only 1,051 candidates – the lowest ever – ran for the House of Commons, including those selected by proportional representation.
However, Masato Kamikubo, professor of political science at Ritsumeikan University, said the opposition was too focused on organizing unified candidates without having meaningful political discussions.
Some voters also hesitated to put their trust in the opposition parties as Japan faces various economic and foreign policy challenges, particularly in reviving a deflationary economy and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
Kishida is now expected to travel to the UK to make his world debut at the COP26 climate summit, where he will set out how Japan intends to meet its CO2 emissions targets by 2030 and 2050.
He has also placed emphasis on strengthening Japan’s economic security and defense measures in the face of a more confident China.
But Kishida has yet to outline how he will break away from his predecessors in order to create a “new form of capitalism” and fund his economic measures to raise wages for all.
Additional reporting from Nobuko Juji in Chiba