FirstFT: Japan’s ruling coalition set for victory after Abe assassination
Prime minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling coalition is heading for a clear victory in elections for Japan’s upper house, presenting a historic opportunity to revise the country’s pacifist constitution after the assassination of Shinzo Abe boosted voter turnout.
The vote came two days after the country’s longest-serving prime minister was killed by a lone gunman while giving a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.
Analysts had initially expected voter turnout to be a historic low. But projections from state broadcaster NHK suggest that more people voted than in the 2019 election after political parties united in condemning Abe’s shooting as “a challenge to democracy”.
The campaign was fought over the cost of living crisis and security issues tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not constitutional reform. But the strong outcome gives Kishida, known for his moderate views, a chance to revise Article 9, which stipulates that land, sea and air forces “will never be maintained”. This was a life-long ambition for the hawkish Abe.
As of midnight local time, NHK’s exit polls suggest that the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, won 73 of the 125 seats up for grabs. Adding the seats won by two other parties backing constitutional reform, the ruling coalition clinched a two-thirds majority needed to revise the constitution, which was written by US occupying forces after the second world war.
The hurdles to a revision remain high. In a poll conducted by NHK ahead of the election, 37 per cent of those surveyed said the constitution should be revised, while 23 per cent were against a revision. Parties in favour of reform are also divided on which part of the constitution should be amended.
The win also gives Kishida a freer hand to shape his policy and appoint people close to him in powerful positions. Analysts said, however, that the loss of Abe, the nation’s most polarising and influential leader in decades, could rock the power balance inside the LDP.
Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia and here is the rest of the day’s news — Amanda
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The day ahead
Tory party elections The UK Conservative party’s backbenchers elect new officials for the 1922 committee today. The first task for this newly elected parliamentary body will be to agree on rules for electing the next British prime minister, which is expected to take place by early September.
Vigils for former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe A vigil for the country’s longest-serving prime minister is expected tonight in Japan, followed by a funeral on Tuesday. Abe was assassinated in the city of Nara on Friday during a campaign speech, shocking a nation where political violence and gun ownership are rare.
What else we’re reading
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