Abe claims win in Japan parliamentary poll
TOKYO – Agence France-PresseJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition won a landslide victory on July 10 in an election for parliament’s upper house, despite concerns about his economic policies and plans to revise the nation’s post-war pacifist constitution for the first time.
Voters backed the hawkish premier, despite a lackluster economic performance, handing his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its allies control of more than half of the upper house of parliament.
An emboldened Abe called July 11 for debate on Japan’s pacifist constitution, which he said it was his “duty” to revise after scoring a strong win in weekend elections.
“We have always set a goal of revising the constitution...that is my duty as president,” Abe said.
“But the party does not have more than two-thirds of seats in both chambers by itself, so I don’t expect the draft would pass as is,” he said, referring to the parliament’s lower house as well, and suggesting compromise was needed.
“So I hope debate will steadily deepen.”
Japan’s constitution, imposed by occupying United States forces after World War II, prohibits the use of aggression to solve international conflicts.
The provisions are popular in the public at large, but reviled by right-wingers like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive.
Unofficial results from the July 10 vote compiled by media show the LDP and its Buddhist-backed allies, Komeito, now occupy more than half - at least 147 - of the seats in the upper chamber of parliament.
Full official results are expected July 12.
With backing from fringe parties that also favor constitutional change, Abe could now have the two-thirds majority that he needs in both houses to push through an amendment to the country’s basic law.
However, observers point out that corralling support for a revision from coalition partners who have traditionally shied away from nationalist posturing could be difficult.
And the proposal would still face a referendum, with pollsters saying the vast majority of the public are wary of any softening of the country’s pacifist stance.
Meanwhile, China’s official agency quickly warned that the victory posed a danger to regional stability. Commentaries by the Xinhua news agency are not formal government statements but often reflect official thinking in China, where memories of Japan’s past militarism still spark outrage.
“With Japan’s pacifist constitution at serious stake and Abe’s power expanding, it is alarming both for Japan’s Asian neighbors, as well as for Japan itself, as Japan’s militarization will serve to benefit neither side,” the Xinhua commentary said.