Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed victory Sunday for his ruling coalition in parliamentary elections, which came despite lukewarm public support for his economic policies and wariness over amending the country’s pacifist constitution.
Abe, in power since late 2012, has yet to achieve a strong recovery in the world’s third-largest economy through unconventional measures centered on massive easy money and other steps — so-called Abenomics.
Voters have also expressed misgivings about his cherished dream of making changes to the country’s constitution, imposed by the United States after Japan’s defeat in World War II and which prohibits it from waging war.
But his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Buddhist-backed Komeito gained as public confidence in the ability of opposition parties was even lower. Abe seized on the election results for half the seats in parliament’s upper house as a vote of confidence.
“I’m relieved that we were able to secure more than... half the seats contested,” he told private broadcaster TBS television about two hours after polls closed at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT).
“I think (voters) told us to firmly accelerate Abenomics.”
The LDP and Komeito were set to take at least 66 of the 121 seats up for grabs — half the chamber’s total — up from 59 previously, public broadcaster NHK said. Its projection and similar estimates by other media were based on incoming results and their own analysis.
Final numbers were not expected until Monday at the earliest but the trend was clear. The two parties control 77 seats from the other half of the chamber, which was not contested Sunday, meaning that they are set to increase their majority in the 242-seat body.
The House of Councillors, as the upper house is formally known, is the less powerful chamber in Japan’s bicameral legislature, and half its seats come up for election every three years. NHK and other media also said the LDP was in reach of a majority on its own in the body which, if achieved, would be its first in 27 years.