TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party may increase its seats and his coalition keep its two-thirds majority in parliament’s lower house, media projections showed, allowing him to claim a fresh mandate for his economic revival policies.
The conservative premier called the Dec 14 election after just two years in office as a referendum on his “Abenomics” strategy, following his decision last month to postpone a planned rise in the sales tax to 10 per cent from eight per cent.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is on track to take 300 or more of the chamber’s 475 seats, according to the projections in the Asahi, Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers on Thursday.
The LDP’s alliance with the small Komeito party may win more than the 317 seats needed for a “super majority” that enables the lower house to override the upper house, two surveys showed.
The projected landslide – echoing the win that returned Abe and the LDP to power in 2012 – would make it easier for the premier to silence dissenters inside the party to his three-pronged growth strategy that combines hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and structural reforms.
The likely victory comes despite the fact that a large chunk of voters say Abenomics is not working and Abe’s own support slipping. Experts said it was largely due to the opposition’s failure to regain public trust after a 2009-2012 term by the novice Democratic Party of Japan that was marred by policy flip-flops and infighting.
“The LDP will be stronger than it has been at any time in its entire history,” said Columbia University professor Gerry Curtis, of the party founded in 1955. “It’s a vote of no-confidence in everyone else.”
In a sign of voter disaffection, turnout could hit a new low, while the Japan Communist Party is expected to make gains on its eight seats.