12/15/2014, 00.00
JAPAN
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Tokyo: as expected, Shinzo Abe wins big

The coalition led by outgoing premier won 325 seats out of 475, or two thirds of seats needed to govern unchallenged. Experts insist the outcome is less a victory for the prime minister than a defeat for the opposition whose leader lost his seat. Now the prime minister has three years to implement his "Abenomics", restart nuclear plants and redesign the armed forces.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The coalition led by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has overwhelmingly won yesterday's parliamentary elections.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, won a combined strength at 325 seats, or two thirds of all seats, enough to override Upper House vetoes.

Abe is expected to be re-elected as the nation's 97th prime minister during a special Diet session and form a new Cabinet as early as 24 December.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) President Banri Kaieda lost his seat in the Tokyo No. 1 district and is now expected to resign as party leader.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the gutsy 15-year DPJ veteran who ran from the Tokyo No. 18 district, also lost in his single-seat electoral district, but managed to be elected in the proportional representation segment.

A total of 1,191 candidates vied for 475 seats in the House of Representatives in yesterday's poll, which was widely seen as a referendum on Abe's economic policies.

Although experts believe the election results are less the prime minister's victory than the opposition's defeat, the fact remains that Abe's decision to dissolve the lower house of parliament two years ahead has paid off. Now he has three years to implement his plans.

The first plan is economic, his so-called 'Abenomics' - a policy mix of radical monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reform to boost investments.

This includes widening the tax wedge, which is the main reason Abe called fresh elections. Two years ago, when Abe came to power, his policies initially gave a boost to GDP.

Following the first consumption tax hike from 5 to 8 per cent last April, the economy began to contract, pushing the country into technical recession.

The second stage of the tax hike to 10 per cent, initially scheduled for October 2015, was postponed by 18 months.

However, in addition to his economic policies, Abe has pledged to pursue other, more controversial plans after his election sweep.

The first one is to restart nuclear power plants, a policy challenged by the Catholic Church and the opposition DPJ.

The other change involves amending the constitution to enable Japan's Armed Forces to operate beyond the limits of self-defence.

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