Japan ruling coalition wins landslide in Upper House Election

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Japan’s ruling coalition scored a stronger-than-expected victory in parliamentary elections, results showed Monday, as voters chose stability and hopes for economic revival over opposition pleas to stop the prime minister from building a more assertive military.
Half of the seats of the less powerful upper house, or 121 seats, were up for grabs in Sunday’s vote. There had been no possibility for a change of power because the ruling coalition, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, already controls the more powerful lower house, but the balloting was a key gauge of how much support Abe’s coalition has among the public.
The Liberal Democrats won 56 of the 121 seats, official results showed on Monday. The party’s coalition partner Komeito won 14 seats. The total of 70 seats was far better than the goal of a combined 61 seats set by Abe. That number may grow if independent candidates join the coalition, common in Japanese elections, and if there are defections from the soundly defeated opposition, less common but what analysts are predicting might happen.
Abe appeared before TV cameras at party headquarters late Sunday to pin red flowers, indicating confirmed wins, next to his candidates’ names written on a big board.
“I am honestly so relieved,” he told NHK, promising new government spending to help wrest the economy out of the doldrums in a “total and aggressive” way. He declined to give details.
With their pro-business policies, the Liberal Democrats have ruled Japan almost continuously since World War II, and until recently enjoyed solid support from rural areas. The few years the opposition held power coincided with the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that devastated northeastern Japan. The opposition fell out of favor after being heavily criticized for its feeble reconstruction efforts.
Robert Dujarric, professor and director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan in Tokyo, said the win reflected voters’ disenchantment with the opposition, rather than their excitement about Abe’s policies.
“The public is old. It doesn’t want change,” he said. “It doesn’t want what Japan really needs _ more structural reform, less money for the old, and more funding for families and children.”

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