Japan votes for new PM Kishida and political stability
- Kishida’s coalition set to retain majority
- New prime minister’s PLD could suffer from bruises
- LDP losses could weaken Kishida’s influence and his ability to do his job
TOKYO, Oct.31 (Reuters) – Japanese voters went to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to back Fumio Kishida’s conservative government or weaken the new prime minister and possibly bring the world’s third-largest economy back to a time of political uncertainty .
The vote is a test for Kishida, who called the election shortly after taking the top post earlier this month, and for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been battered by its perceived mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already, Kishida has struggled to push forward policies aimed at helping the poorest people, while securing a sharp increase in military spending and taking a tougher line on China.
With its lackluster image that does not inspire voters, the PLD is on the verge of losing its majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 2009, opinion polls show, even though its coalition with its junior partner Komeito will remain in power.
“It’s hard to say that the pandemic is completely hushed up and society is stable, so we shouldn’t have big changes in coronavirus policy,” doctor Naoki Okura said after voting in Tokyo.
“Rather than demanding a change of government, I think we should demand continuity.”
Voting closes at 8:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT), with expected results likely to come out soon after media exit polls.
DIFFICULT COMPETITION, ROTATING DOOR?
Several key PLD lawmakers face particularly difficult competitions, including Akira Amari, the party’s general secretary.
“Revolving-door prime ministers are a weakness many outside of Japan fear,” Sheila A. Smith, senior member of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a blog post. “Prime Minister Kishida will need a unified party and strong electoral representation on October 31 if he is to successfully tackle Japan’s difficult national agenda.”
Participation will be crucial, as higher participation tends to favor opposition. At 2 p.m., the turnout stood at 21.49%, down 0.34 points from the previous lower house ballot – but 16.6 million voted early, the ministry said. ‘Interior.
The largest opposition group, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is expected to win seats but will not come close to toppling Kishida’s coalition.
“The only party with policies targeting people in their twenties and thirties are the Constitutional Democrats, things like income tax and so on,” said office worker Daisuke Matsumoto, 27. “It is true that other parties have policies aimed at raising children, but what about those of us who do not have children?”
A significant loss of LDP seats could lead to internal strife between the parties, returning Japan to an era of short-lived administrations that diminished its global stature, until Shinzo Abe ruled the country for a record period. eight years until September 2020. The accommodating Komeito could also gain more weight within the coalition.
Uncertainty is high, with the Nikkei newspaper estimating that 40% of single-member districts have tight races and recent polls showing around 40% of voters undecided.
Kishida’s publicly stated goal is for his coalition to retain a majority of at least 233 seats out of the 465 in the lower house. Before the election, the coalition held a two-thirds majority of 305, the LDP holding 276.
Investors and political observers wonder if the PLD – in power for brief periods since its formation in 1955 – can retain its majority as a single party. Losing this would erode Kishida’s power base in the LDP party and the party’s stance against the Komeito.
The usually divided opposition is united, arranging for a single party – including the largely shunned Japanese Communist Party – to confront the coalition in most districts, analysts claiming this creates a number of side-to-side battles. elbow.
But the opposition has failed to win the hearts of voters, with just 8% supporting Constitutional Democrats while 39% supporting the LDP, according to a poll carried out last week by state broadcaster NHK.
Still, some voters – like Yoshihiko Suzuki, who voted Constitutional Democrat in his constituency and PR Communists – hoped the ballot might teach the PLD a lesson.
Suzuki, 68 and retired, said Abe’s eight years in power had made the PLD complacent and arrogant, underscored by a string of money and crony scandals.
“I hope this election will be a wake-up call for them,” he added. “If so, the LDP will become a better party, given how many talented lawmakers they have.”
Reporting by Sakura Murakami, Elaine Lies, Irene Wang, Daniel Leussink, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yoshifumi Takemoto; Writing by Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies; Editing by William Mallard
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