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Japan's deadlock over? A supermajority emerges in exit polls.

Japan’s main conservative party pulled off a major victory in Sunday’s election, giving its leader, Shinzo Abe, a mandate to push for big public spending and a hawkish foreign policy.

By Correspondent / December 16, 2012

Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles, at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo December 16. LDP surged back to power in an election on Sunday just three years after a devastating defeat, giving Abe a chance to push his hawkish security agenda and radical economic recipe.

Yuriko Nakao/Reuters



Japan’s main conservative party pulled off an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s election, giving its leader, Shinzo Abe, a mandate to pursue his hawkish security agenda and abandon the country’s pledge to phase out nuclear power.

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The result marked a dramatic comeback for Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP), just three years after it was ousted in a landslide win for the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Exit polls indicated the LDP was on course to win around 300 seats, and its traditional ally, New Komeito, about 30 seats. Combined, that would secure them a two-thirds majority in the 480-seat lower house, enabling them to override attempts to block legislation by the upper house, where no single party has overall control.

That “supermajority” would end the policy deadlock that has restrained Japan for the past five years, as it attempts to end two decades of economic stagnation and address ballooning welfare and pension bills.

Abe to focus on economy

Abe, 58, who resigned as prime minister in 2007 amid ill health and scandals involving his cabinet ministers, signaled he would make the economy his priority. "First and foremost we have to bring about an economic recovery and pull Japan out of deflation," he said on TV after his party’s victory was assured.

The current prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, whose DPJ is expected to win just 65 seats – about a fifth of the number it won in 2009 – said he would resign as party leader to take responsibility for its heavy defeat.

"The result reflects a public assessment of our three years and three months in power,” Goshi Hosono, the DPJ’s policy chief, said in a TV interview. "The party leadership, including myself, must take responsibility for that.”

Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, says the LDP had benefited from public anger over the DPJ’s broken promises.

“The DPJ’s slogan three years ago was putting people’s livelihoods first, but then Noda increased the consumption tax, and that was seen by voters as a fundamental betrayal,” Nakano says. “The Japanese electorate is consistent in punishing the governing party if it feels it has been lied to.”

Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP’s general secretary, said the new administration’s work would begin immediately. “This is a tremendous result, but we have a whole host of issues confronting us, including the economy and national security. The people have expectations of us, and we have to respond to them quickly."


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