TOKYO (NWN) – Japan’s ruling party split two parliamentary seats in a by-election over the weekend, testing its support ahead of a nationwide vote next Sunday.
Both seats are in the upper house of the Japanese parliament, which is not eligible for elections on October 31 to the more powerful lower house, but they have been seen as the leader of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government.
His Liberal Democratic Party previously held both seats. She lost to an opposition-backed candidate in a fiercely contested vote for a vacant seat in Shizuoka Prefecture, while the LDP candidate won second place in Sunday’s by-elections at the party’s traditional stronghold in Yamaguchi Prefecture, home to former leader Shinzo Abe.
While media polls widely expect the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito to retain the majority of the 465 seats in the lower house, the cessation of the 305 seats it held prior to the election would be a bad start for the weeks-old Kishida administration.
“We had a disappointing result in Shizuoka,” Kishida told reporters on Monday. “I will take the voters’ opinion seriously and will seriously try to hold (Sunday) elections.”
In voting for a seat representing the prefecture south of Tokyo, former Shinnosuke Yamazaki Prefecture Assembly member backed by opposition groups, the Japan Constitutional Democratic Party and the People’s Democratic Party defeated LDP-backed Yohei Wakabayashi, the former mayor. , and the third candidate supported by the Japanese Communist Party.
Jun Azumi, a senior MP for the Constitutional Democratic Party, said the victory in Shizuoka gave the opposition bloc “more confidence” ahead of the vote in the lower house on Sunday.
“The result reflected the discontent of many voters who want to change policy after seeing their lives continue to deteriorate during the pandemic,” Azumi said.
In Yamaguchi Prefecture, LDP-backed Tsuneo Kitamura defeated a communist candidate and a former YouTuber.
Kishida took office on October 4, with his immediate task to rally party support, weakened by an alleged arrogant approach to the pandemic and insistence on hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He dissolved the lower house just 10 days after taking office, saying he needed a public mandate for his new government.
The main concerns of the lower house campaign include the COVID-19 response and the revival of the pandemic-stricken economy, as well as diplomatic and security issues related to China’s growing power and influence, as well as North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
The campaign for the LDP has already been volatile: media polls have shown that the Kishida government supports the slump in government a week ago.
Kishida said he wants the coalition to get at least a majority of the seats, or 233 seats in the House. It would be an easy target, but experts and media polls predict the LDP could lose about 30 seats.