Japan election: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hails landslide win

 

Tokyo

Voters have handed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a resounding victory in Japan’s general election, ending a gridlocked parliament and giving him one of the strongest political mandates for a Japanese leader in years.

Mr Abe says he will use the mandate to pull Japan’s giant economy out of its long-term decline. But opposition politicians fear the right-wing premier will pursue a narrow nationalist agenda that could destabilise the world’s most dynamic economic region.

State broadcaster NHK predicted that Mr Abe’s Liberal Democrats (LDP) would take at least 71 of the 121 seats up for grabs in today’s upper house poll with coalition partner New Komeito. A win, on a low turnout, would give the LDP control over both houses for the first time in six years.

Speaking on national television on Sunday, the Prime Minister promised to be “humble” in victory. “I believe the public has responded to our economic policies,” he said. “The next step is to make sure that people see their lives really improve.”

Since returning to office in December, Mr Abe has been credited with reviving the world’s third-largest economy, thanks to steroid-packed inflationary policies that have boosted public works and flooded the market with about $130bn (£85bn) in stimulus money.

Dubbed “Abenomics”, the policies have pushed up Japan’s stock market by about 60 per cent and weakened the yen by nearly a quarter, creating a rare feel-good mood among the business community.

Mr Abe’s government had an approval rating of roughly 60 per cent going into the election, high for a political system that has burned through seven prime ministers in as many years. But his policies are a high-wire act, designed to trigger more investment and consumer spending that has largely yet to materialise. The measures have increased Japan’s already huge public debt, currently at around 240 per cent of GDP.

The LDP says it will also accelerate the re-starting of Japan’s largely mothballed nuclear reactors, ignoring criticism that it is too soon after the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

Mr Abe, whose grandfather was minister and suspected war criminal during the Second World War, has deep nationalist roots. He has spent much of his two-decade political career playing down Japan’s wartime atrocities and advocating a radical conservative agenda that includes dismantling Japan’s pacifist constitution and upgrading the military.

Some analysts predict that with the election in the bag, Mr Abe will accelerate this revisionist agenda, with unpredictable results on Tokyo’s already frayed ties with giant neighbour China. The two sides are locked into a dispute over a clump of islands on Japan’s southwest fringes, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China. Mr Abe said during the election he will not “give an inch” on the dispute.

The state-run China Daily newspaper said today’s victory will encourage the Abe government to strengthen its “hawkish stance”. “It is likely to make more provocative moves over the Diaoyu Islands to seek public support to amend the constitution and upgrade self-defence forces to an army,” said an analyst quoted in the paper.

Tokyo’s game of brinkmanship with Beijing could be further complicated by a Chinese plan to dramatically expand gas drilling near a disputed border in the East China Sea.

Today’s poll will leave the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest pre-election party in the upper house, with just 14-21 seats, according to NHK. That would be its worst result since the party was founded 15 years ago.

The pacifist, anti-nuclear New Komeito is set to win 10 seats. It has been a brake on Mr Abe’s nationalist instincts in the past, triggering speculation that the LDP might pull out of the coalition if it secures a large enough victory.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower