Japan‘s prime minister Shinzo Abe and his liberal-conservative LDP achieved a resounding victory in the snap election for the lower house of parliament. Together with the current coalition partner, the Buddhist Komeito, Abe won a “super majority” of 312 out of a total of 465 seats. Besides the very positive economic situation at present, Abe also benefited from the discord among the two largest opposition parties that had originally planned to join forces against him. In the end however, a split formed in the opposition camp.
Tokyo’s mayor Yuriko Koike, head of the newly-formed Party of Hope and previously considered to be promising, did not want to run for a seat in the lower house. She could therefore not become a possible successor to Abe as prime minister. The DJP, the other and previously largest opposition party, was effectively disbanded even before the election as part of tactical election manoeuvres. Its former more conservative candidates were able to put themselves up for election with the Party of Hope. The other more centre-left members of the former DJP had to go into election as independent candidates or as members of the newly formed “Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan”. The only outcome of all this was that Abe no longer had to worry about any powerful opposition. In time of uncertain foreign policy, most Japanese prefer the “tried and tested” and Abe’s long-standing ruling LDP party offered just that to such voters. For example, Abe always emphasised in the election campaign his intention to take stronger stance against the North Korean threat.
With his two-thirds majority in parliament confirmed, Abe can now continue to focus more on his economic and foreign policy agenda. As regards economic policy, he will no doubt continue with his “Abenomics”, even though fiscal stimulus may need another boost. The expansionary monetary policy is also likely to remain intact, thus increasing the probability of another term for BOJ governor Kuroda. Abe also reiterated his intention to stick with the plan to increase value-added tax from 8 to 10 percent in October 2019. Some of the additional revenue this is hoped to yield should be used to finance new spending on social welfare and education, such as free pre-school places. Budget consolidation will therefore take a back seat for now. One would now hope that Abe will finally make progress with the long-needed structural reforms, for example on the labour market or in agriculture.
Abe’s “favourite project”, namely the constitutional revision of the role of the military and the fundamental legalisation of military peace-keeping missions abroad, can now be tackled too without having to clear any major parliamentary hurdles. However, Abe wants to proceed “cautiously” here and build broader support among the Japanese, the majority of whom are in favour of maintaining the pacifist orientation of the constitution. According to Abe’s most recent remarks, this will likely remain unchanged in principle.
Allocation of seats in the newly-elected lower house:
Source: NHK, 23 October 2017, 17:20 Japan Standard Time