Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party lost both of the Lower House by-elections held on Sunday in the Okinawa No. 3 and Osaka No. 12 electoral districts. While the outcomes of these by-elections may have reflected the particular situation in each constituency — the dispute in Okinawa over the construction of a replacement airfield for the U.S. Marine’s Air Station Futenma and the strength of Nippon Ishin no Kai in its home turf of Osaka — the government and the ruling coalition parties should still take seriously the first LDP losses in a Diet by-election since Abe returned to the government in 2012 (with the exception of a 2016 race in Kyoto, in which the LDP was unable to field its own candidate).

Along with the nationwide series of local elections, the by-elections have been closely watched as a barometer of voter sentiment ahead of the triennial Upper House election this summer. The results were a severe verdict by voters on the Abe administration and its policies.

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