National / Politics

With opposition fractured, LDP bags over half of prefectural seats in first leg of polls

Kyodo

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party won more than half of the 2,277 seats contested in prefectural assembly elections across Japan on Sunday, showing that support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party remains firm ahead of the Upper House election set for this summer.

Taking advantage of a fractured opposition, the LDP won 1,158, or 50.9 percent, of the seats in 41 prefectures in the first leg of quadrennial nationwide local elections. It won a majority in 25 assemblies, including in areas such as Hokkaido and Aichi that typically lean more toward other parties.

But the LDP also suffered a number of setbacks including losses in the Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections.

“We will look seriously at the results and make sure we achieve victory in the second leg” later this month, Abe said Monday.

The LDP’s victories came despite a deputy land minister resigning days earlier over remarks implying that a road project had been given preferential treatment to please Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The LDP won a key gubernatorial race in Hokkaido, although elsewhere it saw a lack of party unity. In Fukuoka — Aso’s home district — the LDP’s voter base was split between the incumbent, 69-year-old Hiroshi Ogawa, and a candidate supported by the deputy prime minister. Ogawa won.

Such divisions could bode ill for the LDP heading into the July election in the Upper House, where it currently holds a comfortable majority.

Out of 389 female candidates who ran for prefectural assembly races, 237 won a seat, occupying 10.4 percent of the total winners and marking a record high both in terms of the number and the ratio.

Kyoto Prefecture topped the list for its proportion of female winners with 21.7 percent, followed by 18.1 percent in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Only 3.5 percent of LDP winners were women, while women made up 24.6 percent of winners representing the CDP.

The party’s junior coalition partner, Komeito, retained all 166 prefectural assembly seats for which it had campaigned.

Among opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan had a relatively strong showing with 118 seats — 31 more than it had heading into the polls.

But the Democratic Party for the People lost 59 seats to end up with just 83. Combined, the two parties won 201 seats compared with the 264 that the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, from which they both splintered, won in 2015.

The Japanese Communist Party, which had members in every prefectural assembly before campaigning began, lost its seats in Aichi. It shed a total of seven seats to finish with 99.

Meanwhile, Nippon Ishin no Kai, a national party with links to an Osaka-based regional party pushing to reform Osaka into a metropolitan government like Tokyo, added 13 seats to end with 67.

That regional party, Osaka Ishin no Kai, won a crucial majority in the prefectural assembly as well as the gubernatorial and mayoral elections, giving it renewed momentum to pursue its plan.