Abe wins Senate election but falls short of supermajority
The ruling coalition won 71 seats in the Upper House but sees chances of reforming the constitution to boost military slip away. Abe is only a few months from becoming Japan’s longest-lasting prime minister.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this morning declared victory for his party-led coalition.
According to Japanese media, the ruling coalition made up of the Liberal Democratic Party and the NHK won 71 of the 124 seats up for grabs in the Japanese upper house. The main opposition party, the Democratic Constitutional Party, won 53 seats.
For Abe, the result shows that the electorate wants his party to continue to lead the country. However, he failed to achieve a supermajority to change the constitution.
For years, the prime minister has been trying to change Article 9 in order to give Japan’s Self-Defence Forces a broader mandate.
"I would like to express my gratitude to the voters," said Abe in a press conference, Monday afternoon. "This is a choice about the political stability and chaos. We asked the voters to choose between these two options and many people listened to our speeches on the streets."
"In this election, the constitutional amendment was also a big issue — it will be finally determined by the national referendum," Abe added. Thus, "The people of Japan will have a final say on this matter."
Shinzo Abe has been in power since 2012, but served as prime minister in 2006 to 2007. Next November, the 64-year-old will overtake Katsura Tarō – who led the country three times between 1901 and 1913 – as the longest serving prime minister in the history of Japan.
For Abe, amending Article 9 is a priority in order to give greater legitimacy to the Japan Self-Defence Forces, and enable them to play a more important geopolitical role at a time of an increasingly powerful China and a persistent North Korean threat.
Speaking to journalists after the first exit polls, Abe noted that voters had chosen political stability.
For him, the results constitute a mandate to pursue his policies. Nevertheless, he urges other parties in parliament to discuss as a vital an issue as constitutional reform.