The Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s ruling part welcomed its sweeping gains in the Tokyo Assembly election on June 24 in a closely watched contest that is an indicator of how Japan’s major parties will fare in parliamentary polls next month.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party became the largest single bloc after winning nearly half of the 127-seat Tokyo metropolitan assembly, according to the final vote count by the Tokyo metropolitan government.
The ruling party, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, won 59 seats, up from 39 seats going into the election. Its junior partner, a Buddhist-backed conservative group, maintained 23 seats, enough for the two parties together to have a comfortable majority. Abe, who has focused on strengthening Japan’s economy and defense policies, has a high national approval rating.
The election is the biggest vote before the nation goes to the polls on July 21 to elect members of Parliament’s upper house. Initial turnout was low, according to Japanese media reports, although the major parties campaigned heavily in the run-up to the vote.
Since taking office in December, Abe has focused on the economy. But his wider agenda includes revising Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow a stronger military.
Also watched was the Japan Restoration Party, a new group led by Toru Hashimoto, who is the mayor of Japan’s second-largest metropolis, Osaka. It won two seats, down from its current three.
Though Hashimoto is hoping to build his party into a nationwide political power, he has drawn fire for his recent remarks that sex slavery by Japan’s Imperial Army before and during World War II was a “necessary” wartime evil, and for suggesting U.S. military patronize adult entertainment to help reduce sex crimes committed by American troops.
If his party does badly in the national elections, he will be under pressure to resign as the party chief. (end)