Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling coalition was projected to maintain power in an election on Sunday, even as his party was forecast to take a drubbing, a blow that could return the world’s No.3 economy to political uncertainty.
It was too close to call whether Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would maintain its majority in the lower house of parliament as a single party, according to exit polls by public broadcaster NHK, but the coalition with junior partner was forecast to maintain control.
The LDP-Komeito coalition was projected to win 239 to 288 seats in the lower house, more than the 233 needed for a majority, NHK said. The LDP was expected to win between 212 to 255 seats.
“The coalition itself won’t fall apart and the government will remain, but even given this, the number of seats they have is definitely decreasing and this could make managing parliament difficult,” said Airo Hino, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University.
The vote was a test for Kishida, who called the election soon after taking the top post early this month, and for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been battered by its perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already, Kishida has struggled to advance policies to help poorer people, while securing a big boost in military spending and taking a harder line on China.
“If the projections are correct, then Kishida should be able to continue to govern, or start to govern, but maybe there’ll be a bit of a question mark over his leadership in view of the Upper House election next year,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University.
“So I guess he’ll still try to have to show that he’s got something that’s different from (predecessor Yoshihide) Suga.”
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami, Elaine Lies, Irene Wang, Daniel Leussink, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Antoni Slodkowski and Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies; Editing by William Mallard and David Dolan)
Photo – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida waves to voters before delivering a stump speech for a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate during the campaign for the general election, in Tokyo, Japan. EPA-EFE/FRANCK ROBICHON