Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, secured a new popular endorsement for his reform agenda as his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) triumphed in the snap general elections held on October 22.
The coalition, led by the LDP and featuring the Komeito party, won more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower house of the Diet, the prime minister confirmed on October 23. Together with a similar majority in the upper house, this will enable Mr Abe to continue his expansionary economic policies – known as Abenomics – that aim to revive the economy without excluding foreign investment, and push through a reform of the country’s post-war pacifist constitution to address the threat from North Korea.
“Under the solid coalition made up by the LDP and Komeito, we will promote stable economic policy, foreign policy and security policy,” Mr Abe said at a press briefing from LDP headquarters in Tokyo the day after the elections. “We will carry out each policy promised in this election campaign one by one, and we will make them successful.”
Mr Abe called snap general elections in September to cement his mandate ahead of key economic and constitutional reforms. With a few seats yet to be assigned (due to the delays in ballot-counting operations caused by Typhoon Lan in west and central Japan), the ruling coalition secured at least 312 out of 475 available seats, passing the 310 mark that guarantees the two-thirds majority needed to set in motion a reform of the constitution, Japanese media reported in the afternoon of October 23.
The LDP also secured an absolute majority of 281 seats, enabling it to chair and hold a majority in all lower house standing committees. The renewed Diet is now set to re-elect Mr Abe as prime minister, possibly as soon as November 1, when a special session is to be convened, say local media.
Having secured a historic third mandate, Mr Abe is now in a position to devise new Abenomics policies. Based on the three pillars of fiscal stimuli, monetary expansion and structural reforms, Abenomics shored up economic growth – forecast at 1.7% this year – reduced unemployment, and lifted some long-standing barriers to foreign investors in key sectors.
FDI inflows grew to $11.4bn in 2016, the highest level since 2009, according to figures from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). However, Japan’s total stock of accumulated FDI did not exceed $186.7bn in 2016, or 3.8% of GDP, the lowest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Unctad figures show. On the other hand, the mid-term impact of Abenomics has yet to be gauged, with the International Monetary Fund expecting growth to slow to 0.7% in 2018, and inflation still below a 2% original target. Mr Abe is now expected to announce a new fiscal stimulus by the end of the year.
At the same time, he will pursue a tougher approach towards North Korea, falling in line with the pressure-over-dialogue tactics championed by US president Donald Trump. This approach involves major changes to the post-war constitution approved in 1947, in which “people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” and armed forces with war potential are officially dismantled, according to Article 9.
Mr Abe has already publicly disclosed his intention of amending Article 9 by 2020.