Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to a resounding victory in a snap election on Sunday and immediately vowed to “deal firmly” with threats from North Korea that dominated the campaign.
Mr Abe’s conservative coalition was on track to win 311 seats in the 465-seat parliament, according to a projection from private broadcaster TBS, putting the nationalist premier on course to become Japan’s longest-serving leader.
The resounding election win is likely to stiffen Mr Abe’s resolve to tackle North Korea’s nuclear threat, as the key US regional ally seeks to exert maximum pressure on Pyongyang after it fired two missiles over Japan in the space of a month.
“As I promised in the election, my imminent task is to firmly deal with North Korea,” Mr Abe, 63, said. “For that, strong diplomacy is required,” he stressed.
Mr Abe was heading for a “landslide win”, the top-selling Yomiuri daily said on its website, as the Premier’s gamble to hold a snap election appeared to be paying off.
But it was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the vote whether his coalition would retain its two-thirds “supermajority,” requiring 310 seats, as some media had it falling just short.
A “supermajority” would allow Mr Abe to propose changes to pacifist Japan’s US-imposed constitution that forces it to renounce war and effectively limits its military to a self-defence role.
Mr Abe said he would “deepen” debate on the divisive issue in parliament but stressed: “I don’t plan to propose (changes) via the ruling bloc alone. We’ll make efforts to gain support from as many people as possible.”
Mr Abe said the results indicate that voters support his policies and want to see his political leadership continue. “I think the results reflected the voters’ preference for a solid political foundation and their expectations for us to push polices forward and achieve results,” he said.
Rain, wind on poll day
Millions of Japanese braved torrential rain and driving winds to vote as a typhoon bears down on the country, with many heeding warnings to cast their ballots early.
“I support Mr Abe’s stance not to give in to North Korea’s pressure,” said Yoshihisa Iemori as he cast his ballot in a rainswept Tokyo.
Two people died and more than 10 were injured as millions struggled to the polls for the national election.
Authorities advised thousands living in coastal areas or near rivers to evacuate to shelters as typhoon Lan, which had maximum sustained winds of 160 km per hour, described as “very large and very strong”, dumped torrential rain over much of the country....