Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito blocs overwhelming victory in the general election represented a “historic” level of public confidence in his leadership and that he will take the result as a powerful endorsement of his policies, including revising the pacifist Constitution. With Sunday’s victory, Abe silenced doubts about his leadership ahead of imminent meetings with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump next month, the Japan Times reported. Abe also announced his intention to seek re-election as Prime Minister at the Diet, possibly as soon as November 1, when a special Diet session is reportedly set to be convened, and then “swiftly launch a new Cabinet.” “I am very grateful that the Japanese public has powerfully encouraged us to move forward with our politics based on the solid foundation of our leadership,” Abe told a packed news conference at the headquarters of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
According to media tallies, Abe’s LDP had secured 281 seats by itself, well beyond the “overwhelming majority” of 261 seats that lets the LDP appoint all chairs as well as a majority of the members in the Lower House standing committees. The LDP’s impressive showing marked the third consecutive time it has won a majority in the Lower House. Abe said the accomplishment under the same Prime Minister was a first-ever feat in the party’s 62-year-old history. Meanwhile, in the shadow of the LDP’s victory, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s upstart Kibo no To (Party of Hope) suffered “utter defeat”, she conceded.
The party, which fielded over 200 candidates, struggled through the final days of the election and had garnered just 50 seats as of Monday evening, media tallies showed. The dismal showing prompted Seiji Maehara, head of the virtually defunct opposition Democratic Party, to announce on Monday that he will step down as president to take responsibility. Prior to his news conference, Abe met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, to reaffirm their solid partnership.
Abe called the snap election last month in part to seek a public mandate for his hard-line approach toward nuclear-armed North Korea — a strategy that dovetails with the pressure-over-dialogue tactic pursued by Trump. Abe is slated to discuss North Korea with Trump when he visits Tokyo starting November 5, and with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a series of meetings, including the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit scheduled for next month in Vietnam.
Sunday’s election afforded the ruling coalition a two-thirds majority in the Lower House that, coupled with the same type of majority in the Upper House, could let Abe call a national referendum on the divisive issue. His goal is to rewrite the war-renouncing Constitution by 2020. On Monday, he did not confirm whether he would stick to that timeline. Nor did he clarify if he will go ahead with the referendum during next year’s ordinary Diet session based on a draft constitution the LDP could submit to the legislative body as soon as this fall, The Japan Times said.