Abe seen retaining two-thirds majority in Japan vote


TOKYO • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition may win a two-thirds majority in yesterday’s general election, an NHK exit poll showed, bolstering his chances at becoming Japan’s longest-serving leader.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and coalition partner Komeito are set to win between 281 and 336 seats of the 465 up for grabs, according to the public broadcaster, which surveyed more than 400,000 people nationwide.

Opposition parties were set to split the other seats, with the left-leaning Constitutional Democratic Party projected to come in second. Actual results were being counted at press time.

A large win for Abe’s coalition would give US President Donald Trump a reliable partner in pushing a hardline stance against Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea.

Abe, 63, called the election last month more than a year before Parliament’s term expired, saying he wanted to test public opinion on a proposal to divert some revenue from a planned sales-tax hike to fund education and delay moves to rein in Japan’s swollen public debt. The timing was also influenced by an uptick in his approval rating after a series of cronyism scandals hurt his popularity earlier in the year.

Already almost five years into the job, Abe campaigned on economic policies that have produced low unemployment and rising stock prices. He also portrayed his party as best placed to defend Japan against the growing threat from North Korea’s missiles and nuclear bombs.

A two-thirds majority would make it easier for him to revise Japan’s Pacifist Constitution, a move he sees as necessary to strengthen the military. His party is considering a proposal to allow Japan to have an offensive capability for the first time since World War II.