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Image source, Reuters

Image caption, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took power of the ruling party ahead of the general election

Japan’s ruling coalition will retain power after Sunday’s election but with a weakened majority, exit polls say.

National broadcaster NHK projects the LDP-Komeito coalition will win between 239 to 288 lower house seats – more than the 233 needed to stay in control.

But it is unclear if new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will win enough seats to be able to govern on its own.

Mr Kishida, 64, became leader of the LPD earlier this month.

The party has dominated Japanese politics for decades but has been criticised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

His predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, stepped down in September after just a year in office. The resignation came amid plummeting poll ratings for the LDP following an unpopular push to continue with the Tokyo Olympics despite public concern about surging Covid-19 rates.

Mr Kishida has long-targeted the prime ministerial role and previously served as the country’s foreign minister from 2012 to 2017.

The LDP went into general election holding 276 of the the 465 seats up for grabs. Broadcaster NHK’s exit polls predict it could secure as few as 212.

Japan’s parliament, known as the National Diet, comprises the lower House of Representatives and an upper House of Councillors.

Sunday’s vote concerned the more powerful lower house, with an upper house vote set to take place next year.

Could PM face similar fate to his predecessor?

As is so often the case in Japan, the question is not which party will win – but by how much.

The LDP has won every election since 2012 with large majorities. This time it looks set to do a lot worse, even losing its overall majority.

That won’t force the LDP from power as it has a junior coalition partner, which looks set to gain enough seats to keep Fumio Kishida in the prime minister’s office.

But Mr Kishida’s election as prime minister last month has done little to boost the popularity of the LDP – even as Covid numbers in Japan have fallen dramatically.

If the LDP loses its overall majority, it would make Mr Kishida’s position as premier much weaker – and encourage his rivals.

His predecessor Yoshihide Suga only lasted one year. Some observers are already speculating that Mr Kishida could face a similar fate.

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