Japan’s ruling LDP party takes comfortable election victory

Japan’s ruling party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), won a surprisingly comfortable victory in Japan’s general election held on 31 October.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s party won a total of 261 seats out of the 465 available in the lower house, the most powerful of Japan’s two-chamber government, down slightly from its previous 276 seats. The LDP, and its coalition partner Komeito, won a total of 293 seats of the 261 needed to form an “absolute stable majority.” Voter turnout was at just under 56%, the third lowest since the end of the war.

Speaking to public broadcaster NHK, Kishida said “with the ruling coalition certain to keep its majority, I believe we received a mandate from the voters.” The LDP have ruled almost uninterrupted since the mid-1950s, last losing an election for the lower house in 2009. The Constitutional Democratic party of Japan, currently the largest opposition group, lost more than a dozen seats in the election. However, the right-wing populist group Japan Innovation party based in Osaka quadrupled its seats to a total of 41, becoming the third-largest party in the chamber.

Five oppositional parties, including the communists, had agreed not to compete against each other in marginal constituencies, hoping to consolidate the anti-LDP vote. The opposition groups called for greater help for low-income families hit hard by the pandemic, allowing married couples to use different surnames, and for the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Kishida said his administration would compile an extra budget for COVID-19 relief, prepare Japan’s health service for a possible wave of new COVID-19 cases over winter, and would attempt to address income inequality in the hope a vaguely defined “new capitalism” would help retain votes from the middle classes.

Kishida also promised a more responsive government following criticism of former leader Shinzo Abe, who stepped down last year, and his short-lived successor Yoshihide Suga, who chose not to run in the LDP leadership contest, who were said to have lost touch with voters during the pandemic.

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Aislinn Wright

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November 2021
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