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Monday, 11th July 2016
In General Japan News,

Japan's ruling coalition takes victory in upper house election

The ruling coalition in Japan, fronted by prime minister Shinzo Abe, took victory in the upper house election this weekend. The vote, which occurred on Sunday (June 10th), saw a two-thirds super majority go to the ruling party, like-minded parties and independents.

According to the Kyodo news agency, turnout in the election was 54 per cent, a little higher than at the last upper house election when 52.61 per cent voted. The LDP teamed up with three smaller parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, in what was a tactical move to prevent the pro-constitutional reform camp from achieving a super majority.

The victory was despite concerns by many about some of Abe’s economic policies and high profile plans to overhaul Japan’s constitution. For the first time since it was written post-war, proposals have been made to turn the pacifist document into one with a more militaristic bent.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was just one seat short of claiming a simple majority, which would have given it more power within the coalition. Predictions had suggested such an outcome was unattainable, although it hasn’t occurred since 1989.

Even though this wasn’t quite achieved, the overall victory will give the prime minister more sway over the conservative party he brought back into power in 2012. This was done on a manifesto full of what is now known as Abenomics – hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and reforms to reboot Japan’s economy.

While changes to the constitution have been grabbing headlines of late, various members of the LDP have suggested that amending Article 9 to remove constraints on the military will not be the first priority. Such a move is still likely to be a difficult step politically, and one that will need to be approached with care.

Abe said: "We hope to question the public on an amendment in a national referendum after a convergence of views in discussions [at the Diet constitution commissions]. I have two more years to my term [as LDP president] and this is a goal of the LDP, so I want to address it calmly."

Some of Japan’s biggest players in the financial markets are concerned, however, that efforts to amend the constitution will take Abe’s attention away from the economy. Many of the people who backed the LDP have spoken out saying that they did so because the economy is the issue they are most interested in.

Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities, told Reuters: "The key question will be whether he can carry out [economic] structural reforms. If Abe fails to do so despite the political freedom he has gained, that will be negative for foreign investors' appetite for Japanese stocks."