Japan PM Kishida's coalition retains majority, but with fewer seats

Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, maintained a comfortable majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections despite losing some seats. His weeks-old government is struggling with a coronavirus-infected economy and regional security threats.

Japan PM Kishida's coalition retains majority, but with fewer seats

According to final, but not yet officially announced results, Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party won 293 seats with its junior coalition partner Komeito. This is a significant increase on the majority of 233 in Japan's lower house (465 members), the most powerful of Japan’s two-chamber Diet (305 seats).

LDP lost 15 seats, but it won 261 seats. This is "an absolute majority," which allows the party and its ruling bloc control over all parliamentary committees to easily pass legislation.

LDP lost single constituencies because of the influence of party members such as secretary general Akira Amari who was embroiled in a past bribery scandal. Amari offered to resign, even though he was eventually elected in proportional representation.

After his ruling coalition won the majority, Kishida stated that "the lower house election is about selecting a leader." "I believe that we received a mandate by the voters."

According to Kishida, the results were partly due to the strategy of opposition parties of fielding unified candidates in multiple single-seat electoral district but also due the voters' evaluation of his predecessors in the past four years.

Kishida (64), dismantled the lower house just 10 days after he took office on October 4. Because his conservative party leaders saw him as a stable successor to Yoshihide Sug and his influential predecessor Shinzo Abe, he had won the leadership race within his ruling party.

Five opposition parties lost 10 seats together as their strategy to unify candidates in single-seat constituencies failed. This was apparently due to the inclusion of the Japanese Community Party in their united front. The largest opposition, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, lost 13 seats to Japan's 96. Meanwhile, communists lost two seats and retreated to 12.

The right-wing Ishin or the Japan Innovation Party was a big winner, nearly quadrupling its seats to 41 and rising to third largest party. Experts say that despite the party's past stance being close to the LDP and its increasing criticism of the ruling and opposition blocs, the party catered to voters who desired a change from LDP but felt uncomfortable with the opposition bloc.

Kishida's immediate task was to gather support for a party that has been weakened by Suga’s perceived high-handed approach towards pandemic measures, and his insistent on holding the Tokyo Olympics despite opposition from many because of high numbers of coronavirus patients. These cases have since fallen sharply.

Kishida repeated his resolve to listen to people and address criticisms that Suga and Shinzo Abe's nine-year tenures had fomented corruption, tamed bureaucrats, and silenced opposing views.

The campaign has been mainly focused on COVID-19 responses and revitalizing our economy.

The ruling party stressed the importance to have a stronger military in the face of China's increasing influence and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats. However, the opposition parties emphasized diversity and advocated for gender equality.

Opposition leaders claim that LDP governments in recent years have increased the gap between rich & poor, failed to support the economy during the Pandemic, and stalled Gender Equality and Diversity Initiatives. Japan ranked 120th this year in the World Economic Forum's 156 nation gender gap ranking.

After a brief period of rule by the center-left Democratic Party of Japan in 2009 and 2012, the opposition has struggled for years to get enough votes to form government. They have not been able present a grand vision of the country.

Concerning the economy, Kishida emphasizes growth through increasing income while opposition groups concentrate more on redistribution wealth and call for cash payments to low-income households that are most affected by pandemics.

During the campaign Kishida promised to stimulate growth and "distribute it's fruit" to the people to generate income.

Late Sunday, Kishida stated that he would appoint the same members of his post-election Cabinet in order to accelerate the work on a Supplemental Budget by the end this year. This will allow him to fund an economic package that will provide support to the people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Kishida stated, "I will take concrete measures to achieve our policies as quickly as possible." "I must move quickly."

Prior to working on them, Kishida stated that he was headed to Glasgow for the COP26 summit. He said, "It is a global problem for all mankind and Japan must take our responsibility."

LDP is opposed to legislation that guarantees equality for sexual minorities, and allows for separate surnames for married couples.

Only 17% of the 1,051 candidates were women, despite a 2018 law encouraging gender equality in elections. This is despite the fact that there is no penalty for the law. About 10% of parliament is made up of women, which gender rights experts refer to as "democracy with no women."

Many voters were skeptical about the government of Kishida.

Shinji Asada (44), said that he used COVID-19 to choose a candidate and hoped for a change in leadership. He felt the ruling party was lacking transparency and explanations regarding its pandemic actions. He stated that, despite Kishida's promises to be more attentive to the people's voices and his Cabinet's largely unfulfilled promises, he believed that nothing would change after seeing his Cabinet.

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