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Japan votes: Incumbent PM Abe appears headed to victory

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Japan votes: Incumbent PM Abe appears headed to victory

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:14 am

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's leader may have made the right call after all, if not for his country then for himself. Media polls indicate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition will handily win a general election Sunday, possibly even retaining its two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament.

Japanese voters may not love Abe, but they appear to want to stick with what they know, rather than hand the reins to an opposition with little or no track record. Uncertainly over North Korea and its growing missile and nuclear arsenal may be heightening that underlying conservatism.

"I buy into Prime Minister Abe's ability to handle diplomacy," said Naomi Mochida, a 51-year-old woman listening to Abe campaign earlier this week in Saitama prefecture, outside of Tokyo. "I think the most serious threat we face now is the North Korea situation. I feel Prime Minister Abe has been showing the best tactics to handle the situation, compared to other politicians including past prime ministers."

Abe dissolved the lower house a little more than three weeks ago on the day it convened for a special session, forcing the snap election. The timing seemed ripe for his ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, or at least better than waiting.

Support for Abe's Cabinet, the standard measure of a government's popularity in Japan, had bounced back from summertime lows. The main opposition force, the Democratic Party, was in more disarray than usual after its leader had resigned. Holding off would only give a potential rival, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, more time to organize a challenge.

The election is "mainly about the Abe administration trying to lock in its position ... and with success, get Prime Minister Abe re-elected as president of the LDP in September and rule until after the Tokyo Olympics, until 2021," Michael Green, a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., said on a call with journalists.

Koike, her hand forced by Abe's decision, hastily launched a new party to contest the election. Her Party of Hope briefly stole the limelight from Abe, attracting a slew of defectors from the Democrats. Its populist platform includes phasing out nuclear power by 2030, and putting on hold an increase in the consumption tax due in 2019.

But Abe's gambit appears to be paying off. The initial excitement for the Party of Hope has waned. Koike, the party leader, decided not to run for the 465-seat lower house and won't even be in Japan on election day. She is heading to Paris for a global conference of mayors that will discuss issues such as climate change.

The Democratic Party has imploded. Its more liberal members have launched yet another grouping, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which is now outpolling the Party of Hope. "To be honest, I wish we had strong opposition," said Ko Horiguchi, a 71-year-old retiree listening to Abe's campaign speech. "But look at their sorry situation right now."

For the rest of the world, an Abe victory would likely mean a continuation of the policies he has pursued in the nearly five years since he took office in December 2012. That includes a hard line on North Korea. Abe says it's not the time for dialogue and has pushed for tougher sanctions to try to pressure leader Kim Jong Un to abandon the country's weapons development.

He has backed a loose monetary policy that has boosted the stock market and breathed temporary life into a long-stagnant Japanese economy, though many of the gains haven't filtered down to working people, raising doubts about the sustainability of the recovery.

A strong election showing would boost Abe's chances of being reappointed to another three-year term as leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party next September, extending his premiership. That could make Abe the longest-serving prime minister in the post-World War II era.

It would also give him more time to try to win over a reluctant public to his longtime goal of revising the postwar Japanese Constitution. He may get the two-thirds majority he needs in parliament for a constitutional amendment, but any change also needs approval in a public referendum.
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Re: Japan votes: Incumbent PM Abe appears headed to victory

Post  Lamplighter on Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:28 am

Japanese Prime Minister Abe wins big in national elections.

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's leader has scored a major victory in national elections that returned his ruling coalition to power in decisive fashion. Japanese media said Monday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and a small coalition partner had together secured at least 312 seats in the 465-seat lower house of parliament, passing the 310-barrier for a two-thirds majority. Four seats remained undecided.

The victory boosts Abe's chances of winning another three-year term next September as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. That could extend his premiership to 2021, giving him more time to try to win a reluctant public over to his longtime goal of revising Japan's pacifist constitution.

In the immediate term, the win likely means a continuation of the policies Abe has pursued since he took office in December 2012 — a hard line on North Korea, close ties with Washington, including defense, as well as a super-loose monetary policy and push for nuclear energy. Stocks rose in Tokyo on Monday morning.

Abe's ruling coalition already has a two-thirds majority in the less powerful upper house. Having a so-called supermajority in both houses gives them virtually a free hand to push even divisive policies and legislation.

Abe said the results indicate that voters support his policies and want to see his political leadership continue. "I think the results reflected the voters' preference for a solid political foundation and their expectations for us to push polices forward and achieve results," Abe told NHK.

With the win, Abe has bounced back from the summer, when his support ratings plunged to 30 percent after accusations of government favoritism to people connected to him. For the first time since he took office nearly five years ago, he appeared vulnerable as both party leader and prime minister.

The ruling coalition's victory, though, reflects as much the lack of viable alternatives as support for Abe, a fact that he seemed to acknowledge in post-election comments. Turnout was just 54 percent, as typhoon rains lashed much of the country.

"I will humbly face the victory and continue to work humbly and sincerely," he told NHK, noting lingering public distrust over the scandals. Abe dissolved the lower house less than a month ago, forcing the snap election. Analysts saw it as an attempt to solidify his political standing at a time when the opposition was in disarray and his support ratings had improved somewhat.

His plan was briefly upstaged by the launch of a new opposition party by populist Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike. But initial excitement faded, and the Party of Hope took only 49 seats. Another new party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, won 54 seats and looks to be the biggest opposition grouping. It is liberal-leaning, while both the Party of Hope and Abe's Liberal Democratic Party are more conservative.

Koike called the results "very severe" in a televised interview from Paris, where she is attending a conference of mayors. She said some of her remarks might have been taken negatively by voters, and that she would take the blame.

Abe's party and its nationalist supporters have advocated constitutional revisions for years. They view the 1947 constitution as the legacy of Japan's defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor's world order and values. The charter renounces the use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan's troops to self-defense, although Japan has a well-equipped modern military that works closely with the U.S.

Any change to Japan's constitution, which has never been amended, requires approval first by two-thirds of parliament, and then in a public referendum. Polls indicate that the Japanese public remains opposed to amendment.
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