Japan’s ruling party loses seat in significant by-elections

Tokyo, Oct 23 (EFE).- Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has lost one of the two seats at stake in weekend by-elections, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The electorates of Tokushima-Kochi and Nagasaki took place Sunday to fill two seats that had been left vacant in previous months in both parliamentary chambers due to a death and a resignation.

The LDP retained the seat that was up for grabs in a Nagasaki electoral district for the Lower House, but an opposition-backed candidate won the vacant Upper House seat in Tokushima-Kochi district.

The ruling party had hoped to retain both seats, despite the drop in approval ratings for Kishida’s Cabinet, which has been at a low since he came to power in October 2021 due largely to public discontent over sustained inflation and sluggish wages growth.

The weekend’s by-elections were the first national elections since Kishida reshuffled his Cabinet in mid-September in an attempt to clean up his image and improve his popularity ratings amid ongoing rumors about a potential snap election.

In Japan, legislatures rarely come to a term end and the government often uses elections as a measure of public support when implementing its most far-reaching policies.

Sunday’s electoral defeat could affect the prospects of a potential snap election, since Kishida seeks to strengthen his position and also faces re-election as LDP leader in September 2024, for which this defeat is not a hopeful sign.

Asked about this on Monday, Kishida did not want to comment, but said: “We should focus on issues that cannot be postponed… I’m not thinking about it right now,” according to statements reported by public broadcaster NHK.

He assured that the government takes the results seriously and will take all possible measures to deal with the situation going forward.

Along the same lines, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told a press conference on Monday that they see the elections as a precious opportunity to listen to the opinions of the people and that they will do everything possible to address outstanding concerns.

Following the results, the head of the electoral strategy committee of the main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), said that the electorate has shown its discontent with the current situation.

“We were able to deliver a resounding no to the management” of Kishida’s government, Hiroshi Ogushi said, according to local news agency Kyodo.

Kishida has committed to developing a new economic stimulus package by the end of this month and approving a supplementary budget to finance it, with a view to alleviating the relentless rise in prices, initially caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other factors that have eroded consumption.

The Kishida administration is also grappling with how to finance its goal of doubling Japan’s national defense budget to 2 percent of GDP in the coming years. EFE


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