Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has secured a strong mandate for his hard line against North Korea and room to push for revision of the country’s pacifist constitution after his party crushed untested opposition parties in Sunday’s general election. Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito were on course to win 311 seats, keeping its two-thirds “supermajority” in the 465-member lower house, an exit poll by TBS television showed. Some other broadcasters had the ruling bloc slightly below the two-thirds mark. A supermajority would allow Abe to propose changes to the constitution, which currently restricts its military to a defensive role. Most voters, however, oppose reform. After a day that saw millions of voters brave driving rain and powerful winds brought on by Typhoon Lan, Abe’s election gamble appeared to have paid off, after he called the vote more than a year earlier than scheduled.
While Abe’s personal popularity remains low, support for his uncompromising stance on North Korea has risen following the regime’s recent launch of two ballistic missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido and its threat to “sink” Japan.
Abe said he would accept the result with “humility” after his personal popularity ratings plummeted in the summer amid two cronyism scandals.
The official result is expected early on Monday, with some districts reporting delays in delivering ballot boxes due to the typhoon.