Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won comfortable re-election yesterday in a snap poll he had billed as a referendum on his economic policies after early success faded into a recession.
However, a low turnout from unenthusiastic voters beset by heavy snowfall across much of the nation could cast doubt on the endorsement he will claim for “Abenomics” — his signature plan to resurrect the country’s flaccid economy.
Media exit polls shortly after voting finished showed his ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) and its junior partner, Komeito, had swept the ballot, with an unassailable two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament that will give them the power to override the upper house.
TV Asahi said the pairing had won 333 of the 475 seats, while TBS put the figure at 328.
The online version of the Nikkei Shimbun newspaper said the LDP alone had won between 290 and 310 seats, and was “on course to secure the two thirds [317 seats] in the chamber with coalition partner Komeito.”
“This victory will enhance Abe’s political capital and allow him to tackle tough issues more comfortably,” University of Niigata Prefecture politics professor Yoshinobu Yamamoto said.
Abe, 60, was only halfway through his four-year term when he called the vote last month.
Abe has been criticized for not being bold enough in taking on the vested interests that are the real key to reversing nearly two decades of economic underperformance.
His fresh four-year mandate may stiffen his resolve for economic reforms and see off opposition from within his ill-disciplined LDP, a party given to bouts of regicide.
However, with only 34.98 percent of voters casting ballots by 6pm, there might be questions over whether this really is an endorsement, or just the default reaction of an electorate numbed by a lack of viable alternatives.
The turnout at 6pm was down 6.79 points from the 2012 election.
However, early voting — which was completed by Saturday — was up by almost a tenth from the previous poll, to approximately 13 million ballots, according to the government.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga dismissed quibbles over the low turnout.
“We don’t know which party will benefit from a low turnout rate, so we think we received [a mandate from voters],” he told TBS.
“The prime minister feels very strongly about pulling Japan out of deflation and revitalizing the Japanese economy,” he said.
Voters polled in the run up to the ballot were uninspired by the choices on offer.
Only two-thirds of respondents told Kyodo News last week that they were interested in the election.
Many Japanese have been left bitterly disappointed by three years under the Democratic Party of Japan from 2009, which saw three emasculated prime ministers and a series of policy flops.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South