The Liberal Democratic Party won a sweeping election victory Sunday, securing an overall majority in the 127-seat Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly with its coalition partner New Komeito, giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a vote of confidence heading into the crucial Upper House election next month.
Driven by high expectations for Abe’s economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” the LDP is aiming to build on the momentum to win the House of Councilors election in July, when the prime minister will be tested on his handling of the seven-month-old government.
The LDP and New Komeito are aiming to win control of the Upper House so that they no longer need to rely on opposition support to pass legislation.
In the Tokyo assembly race, all 82 candidates running for the LDP and New Komeito won, a remarkable turnaround from the previous election in 2009 that paved the way for the Democratic Party of Japan to take the reins of the central government for the first time.
“We have received a good evaluation of our handling of the government over the past six months,” Abe told reporters. “We would like to do our very best so people can feel that the economy is recovering as soon as possible, and win” the next contest in July.
The LDP may need to work to retain its relatively high support, with Japanese share prices having taken a beating and the yen having appreciated since Abe’s growth strategy announcement failed to meet market expectations.
For the DPJ, the election proved a disappointment and disaster, marking a rapid descent to fourth place from first in terms of party strength in the assembly.
DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono said the party’s calls for social security and administrative reform did not resonate with voters. “We need to take the result seriously,” Hosono told a program on NHK.
The LDP won 59 seats and New Komeito 23, well above the 64 necessary to secure a majority in the assembly. The DPJ only managed to win 15, falling behind the Japanese Communist Party, which increased its seats from eight to 17. Your Party won seven and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) secured two.
Tokyo Seikatsusha Network, a local citizens’ group, gained three seats while one seat was won by an independent candidate.
Before Sunday’s race, the DPJ had 43 seats in the assembly, the LDP 39, New Komeito 23 and the JCP eight.
Nippon Ishin faced a public backlash following a series of controversial remarks by co-leader Toru Hashimoto about Japan’s wartime military brothels.
Hashimoto, who doubles as Osaka mayor, indicated before the election that he might step down from the party helm depending on the outcome.
Takao Fujii, the election campaign manager of Nippon Ishin, however, denied that Hashimoto will resign over the poor showing in the metropolitan assembly election.
It was the first time for Nippon Ishin, established in 2012, to field candidates the assembly election. The party had three members in the assembly who joined it after the 2009 election.
The main focus of the election was on how voters would evaluate Abenomics, which combines massive fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary easing and a growth strategy, and is aimed at pulling the world’s third-largest economy out of decades of deflation.
Voter turnout stood at 43.50 percent, the second-lowest on record and down from 54.49 percent in 2009 when change of government was in the air.
Candidates during the campaign focused on the challenges facing Tokyo, such as disaster prevention and steps to address its aging population.
But debate on issues directly affecting the lives of people in Tokyo took a backseat at times as political parties attempted to inject momentum into their campaigns for the Upper House election set for July 21.