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Japan ruling party wins big in polls

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election on Sunday imbued with meaning after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid uncertainty about how his loss may affect party unity.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito raised their combined share in the 248-seat chamber to 146 – far beyond the majority – in the elections for half of the seats in the less powerful Upper House.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025.

That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policies such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the United States-drafted post-war pacifist constitution.

A charter change proposal is now a possibility.

With two opposition parties supportive of a charter change, the governing bloc now has two-thirds majority in the chamber needed to propose an amendment. The governing bloc already has secured support in the other chamber.

Kishida welcomed the major win but wasn’t smiling, given the loss of Abe and the hard task of unifying his party without him. In media interviews on Sunday, Kishida repeated, “Party unity is more important than anything else.”

He said responses to COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising prices will be his priorities. He said he will also steadily push for reinforcing Japan’s national security as well a constitutional amendment.

Kishida and senior party lawmakers observed a moment of silence for Abe at the party election headquarters before placing on the whiteboard victory ribbons next to the names of candidates who secured their seats.

Japan’s Prime Minister and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Fumio Kishida places a red paper rose on an LDP candidate’s name to indicate a victory in the upper house election at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: AP