Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's gamble of holding elections for the lower house of parliament two years early was never likely to fail. The opposition is in such disarray that his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito were always going to cruise to victory. They have held on to their two-thirds majority, smoothing the way for the leader to move forward with difficult reforms. He has to do so with tact: the record low voter turnout highlighted the unpopularity of the measures. Economics is central to Abe's reforms, with his three-arrowed policy known as Abenomics aiming to generate growth and end deflation. But the first two stages have failed to lift the economy, with recession returning in the third quarter and data pointing to a bleak outlook. The prime minister nonetheless vowed in his victory speech to push on with structural changes, the politically sensitive areas of reforming the highly protected farm sector and deregulating labour markets being crucial if he is to succeed. They will be painful steps for the nation, but there is no alternative if the confidence of consumers and foreign investors is to be invigorated. The thought of such difficulties may have kept some voters away, but others may also have been put off by Abe's conservative agenda. His nationalist ways have led to soured relations with China and South Korea. There is a danger that should his economic reforms encounter obstacles, he will switch to focusing on issues that please hardline supporters while further harming ties with neighbouring countries. Among those matters are revising the post-war pacifist constitution. Abe's landslide election win in 2012 was driven by promises to end Japan's decades of economic stagnation. He has failed to deliver and two years later, Japanese are no better off - the country is again on the verge of recession and deflation. Without a viable political alternative, though, voters had no choice other than to return him to power. Abe's mandate should not be ambiguous, however: he has to put his energies into the economy, not nationalism.