Japan’s center-right ruling party won a supermajority in the July 10 House of Councilors election, claiming more than half of the 125 contested seats, following the assassination of the former prime minister and party leader Shinzo Abe.
Abe’s factional Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 119 of 248 seats in the upper house of parliament, while his coalition partner Komeito took 27 seats, NHK television reported.
This secured the party the two-thirds majority required to amend Japan’s post-war pacifist Constitution. As part of Abe’s Japan-first policy, he sought to revise Article 9, prohibiting Japan from possessing its own army or forces with “war potential”.
If uncontested by other factions within the party, the victory will allow Kishida to preside until the next elections in 2025. Kishida, a Hiroshima moderate who wants nuclear weapons banned, represents the smaller, more left-wing liberal wing of the LDP, while Abe leads the right-wing nationalist wing.
Kishida is more accommodating on foreign policy than Abe, who was seen as hawkish towards China for its revitalization of the Quad Forum and the nationalization of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands which China disputes as part of its territory – the Diaoyu Islands.
The LDP held a minute’s silence for Abe at its Tokyo headquarters. Kishida displayed a solemn expression as he placed victory ribbons next to the names of the winning candidates on the whiteboard, the Japan Times reported.
“The violence threatened the electoral process, the very foundation of our democracy. I was determined to see this election through to the end at all costs,” he said, referring to Abe’s shooting that occurred two days before the poll.
Speaking at a press conference, Kishida said his administration would focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukrainian war and the skyrocketing cost of living. He also pledged to revive the Japanese economy.
“I am determined to deliver results under my ‘new capitalism’ economic model, which is primarily aimed at revitalizing the economy,” he said.
“At the same time, I will take a phased approach to continue our work on diplomacy, security and constitutional review.”
The party’s victory could allow Kishida to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, a dream Abe never realized.
Asked about plans for the constitutional review on Sunday, Kishida said he would focus on drafting a bill to be discussed in parliament.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, was shot and killed July 8 during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara. Police arrested a 41-year-old man who allegedly shot Abe at close range and said the suspect used a homemade weapon.
Local police in charge of the campaign event said on Saturday that security measures had been faulty.
Local media reported that the suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he intended to kill Abe because he believed the ex-prime minister was linked to a religious organization that had put his family bankrupt. Police have not identified the group.
Abe’s death drew condolences from across political divisions and around the world. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Tokyo on Sunday to offer condolences over Abe’s death and meet with senior Japanese officials.
“Thank you, Prime Minister Kishida, for the opportunity to visit and pay homage to mourn with you and your nation a great statesman. We are deeply saddened by the murder of one of our dearest friends. The alliance American-Japanese will always remain strong,” Blinken said. Twitter.
Many Japanese mourn Abe’s assassination, and hundreds of people turned out at LDP headquarters over the weekend to remember the former prime minister. Abe’s wake will be held on Monday evening and the funeral of family and close friends on Tuesday.
Reuters contributed to this report.