Japan's ruling party suffered a devastating defeat in parliamentary elections yesterday, early exit polls suggested, as voters angry at a spate of recent government scandals used the ballot box to express their dissatisfaction.
The election was the biggest test yet for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office less than a year ago as the nation's youngest prime minister amid soaring support ratings. But his popularity has plunged amid public outrage over millions of lost pension records and scandals that spurred two ministers to resign and another to kill himself.
Early exit poll surveys underscored the reversal of fortunes.
"If projections are correct, we are looking at utter defeat," Hidenao Nakagawa, secretary-general of Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), told reporters at the party's Tokyo headquarters after polls closed.
The loss, however, wouldn't directly threaten the political grip of the LDP, which has ruled Japan in an almost unbroken succession of administrations since it was formed in 1955. The upper house is largely ceremonial, and the LDP keeps control over the lower house, which chooses the prime minister and can override most votes in the upper house.
Abe accepted responsibility for the crushing defeat, but indicated he would not step down as prime minister.
"We tried our best and felt we made some progress, so the results are extremely disappointing," Abe said after the polls closed. "I must push ahead with reforms and continue to fulfill my responsibilities as prime minister."
Nakagawa, meanwhile, was poised to resign to take responsibility for the loss, Kyodo News agency reported.
Opposition leaders immediately jumped on the results as proof the tide had turned against Abe.
"I think there was a lot of hope put on our party," Takaaki Matsumoto, policy chief for the Democratic Party of Japan, said of the exit polls.
Up for grabs were 121 seats in the 242-member upper house of parliament. While last-minute surveys indicated the LDP and its coalition partner the New Komei Party had been regaining ground, exit polls showed the coalition far behind the 64 seats needed to keep its majority.
According to NTV, a major commercial network, the LDP was set to win 38 seats and the New Komei just nine, compared with 59 for the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.
The results would give the ruling coalition a total of 104 seats, down from the 132 it had before the elections and short of the 122 needed for a simple majority. The Democrats by contrast, would emerge with 111 seats, up from 83.
The network based its forecast on exit polls broadcast shortly after the voting ended last night.
Abe has recently been blamed for mishandling nearly every scandal that has crossed his desk, triggering a stunning reversal of fortune for a ruling party that his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, led to a landslide in the last elections in 2005.
India yesterday went into a three-week lockdown, with one-third of the world now under orders to stay indoors. India ordered its 1.3 billion people — the world’s second-biggest population — to stay at home for three weeks. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “total lockdown” call doubled the number of people around the globe under some form of movement restriction to more than 2.6 billion people. However, the order did not stop crowds of people thronging to stock up at grocery shops and pharmacies. India’s tally of 536 cases and nine deaths seems tiny compared with those in China, Italy and Spain, but Indian Prime
MORE YOUNG PATIENTS: The focus is turning from Europe to the US, where the number of known infections reached almost 86,000, more than in China British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday became the first major world leader to test positive for COVID-19 as Spain recorded a record number of deaths from the pandemic that is threatening millions worldwide. In a grim milestone, the US overtook China as the nation with the most cases, while seeing an unprecedented amount of newly unemployed amid fears of a global economic meltdown. Africa’s economic powerhouse, South Africa, became the latest nation on the continent to start life under lockdown as it reported its first COVID-19 deaths. Johnson said that he had developed mild symptoms over the previous 24 hours and was self-isolating
OUTBREAK CURTAILED: Restrictions on residents heading out of Wuhan are to remain in place until April 8, when the city’s airport is to reopen for domestic flights Trains packed with thousands of passengers yesterday arrived in Wuhan as the Chinese city that was ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic partly reopened after months in lockdown. Returnees, some wearing two masks, latex gloves and protective suits, were greeted at the railway station by staff in similar gear — a reminder that while the city is emerging from isolation, it is still far from normal. “As the train neared Wuhan, my child and I were both very excited,” a 36-year-old woman told reporters. She and her daughter had been away from her husband for nearly 10 weeks. “It felt like the
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 15 new cases of COVID-19, most of whom had studied or worked in the US or the UK before returning home, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 267. The 267 cases include 30 people who have been discharged from quarantine facilities and two deaths, CECC data showed. The new cases were six women and nine men, all Taiwanese, who had returned from the US, the UK, the Philippines, Australia or central America between March 15 and Wednesday, the data showed. With most of the nation’s cases being imported, home quarantine is a second