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Shinzo Abe's party wins key 'supermajority' in Japanese elections

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito are now part of what is now a two-thirds supermajority willing to amend the country’s pacifist constitution.

tokyo-japan-10th-july-2022-a-voter-casts-a-vote-for-japans-upper-house-election-at-a-polling-station-in-tokyo-on-sunday-july-10-2022-credit-yoshio-tsunodaafloalamy-live-news A voters at a ballot box for Japan's Upper House election at a polling station in Tokyo Source: Alamy

JAPAN’S RULING PARTY and partners won enough votes to form a supermajority in an upper house election held just days after the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, local media report.

The ex-premier’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito strengthened their hold by winning more than 75 of the 125 upper house seats up for grabs.

The parties are part of what is now a two-thirds supermajority willing to amend the country’s pacifist constitution, thereby strengthening its military role on the global stage — a longtime Abe goal.

Even before the former prime minister’s murder, the LDP and Komeito were expected to cement their majority, though the final number of seats will be scrutinised for signs of whether the attack bolstered support for them.

“I think it is significant we were able to complete the elections,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told NHK, adding he wants to tackle the pandemic, Ukraine-related issues and inflation.

tokyo-japan-11th-july-2022-japanese-prime-minister-fumio-kishida-and-leader-of-the-liberal-democratic-party-ldp-speaks-during-a-news-conference-after-the-results-of-the-upper-house-elections-at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Source: Alamy

Kishida had insisted the election proceed despite the assassination, saying “we must never allow violence to suppress speech”.

Conceding defeat, Kenta Izumi, leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, which was projected to have lost several seats, said it was clear “voters did not want to switch from the LDP and entrust us with running the government”, according to Kyodo News.

Turnout for the election remained low at only 52%, national outlets reported.

Abe was shot at close range on Friday in the western region of Nara, and died of blood loss at a local hospital. His body was brought to his family home in Tokyo on Saturday.

The assassination rattled the nation and sent shockwaves around the world, prompting an outpouring of sympathy even from nations with which the hawkish Abe had sometimes difficult relations, such as China and South Korea.

The man accused of his murder, Tetsuya Yamagami (41), is in custody and has told investigators he targeted Abe because he believed the politician was linked to an unnamed organisation.

Religious organisation

Local media have described the organisation as religious and said Yamagami’s family had suffered financial trouble as a result of his mother’s donations to the group.

He also reportedly visited the western region of Okayama on Thursday with the intent of killing Abe at a different event, but backed out because participants had to submit their names and addresses.

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Police have promised a “thorough investigation” into what the head of the Nara regional police called “problems with guarding and safety measures” for Abe.

Abe’s office told AFP that a wake would be held on Monday night, with a funeral for family and close friends only on Tuesday. Local media said both were expected to be held at Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple.

Abe was the scion of a political family and became the country’s youngest post-war prime minister when he took power for the first time in 2006, aged 52.

His hawkish, nationalist views were divisive, particularly his desire to reform Japan’s pacifist constitution to recognise the country’s military, and he weathered a series of scandals, including allegations of cronyism.

But he was lauded by others for his economic strategy, dubbed “Abenomics,” and his efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage, including by cultivating close ties with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.

Kishida, 64, was once described as among Abe’s favoured successors, and holds a solid majority in parliament with Komeito.

 – © AFP 2022

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