Japan’s ruling bloc defies expectations, secures sole majority in parliament

Japan’s ruling conservative party has defied expectations and retained control of the country’s parliament in Sunday’s general elections, giving Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a thumping mandate to deliver on his promises to resurrect the pandemic-hit economy.

Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) defied initial exit polls that suggested the party, attacked for its alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, would need to rely on its coalition partner for a majority.

The LPD secured 261 seats, against the 276 it held before the election, in the 465-member lower house.

Although it ended up with fewer seats than in the 2017 election, the party maintained its single-party majority, in a major win for Kishida who took power only a month ago.

With LDP’s coalition partner Komeito garnering 32 seats, the ruling coalition now has 293 seats in the parliament.

Japan’s parliament, known as the National Diet, comprises the lower House of Representatives and an upper House of Councillors. An upper house vote is set to take place next year.

Kishida, who took office on October 4, hailed the results as a “big deal” of trust as he promised to steer the world’s third-biggest economy out of the coronavirus pandemic.

He told reporters Monday morning that he was “encouraged” by the ruling coalition’s performance and that he will “build on the result in running the government and the Diet.”

“We won a majority, which I think in this election was significant,” he told reporters on Monday. “I want to make full use of this, both in running the government and running the parliament.”

The LDP, which has dominated Japan’s politics for decades, was largely criticized for its handling of the pandemic by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The party’s former leader and former Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, stepped down in September after just a year in office, amid public frustration over his handling of the health crisis.

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