Polls show Japan PM Abe set for landslide win as support for Tokyo Governor Koike’s new party fades

A two-thirds majority in parliament would allow the 63-year-old leader to push through an amendment to Japan’s pacifist constitution, turning its self-defence force into an army

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 8:51pm

Recent polls suggest Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on track for a landslide victory in Japan’s upcoming election as a new party founded by Tokyo’s popular governor loses momentum.

Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is projected to win as many as 303 of the 465 seats up for grabs in the October 22 election, according to survey results released on Monday by the Mainichi newspaper.

The LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito is expected to gain more than 30 seats, giving Abe’s ruling camp a comfortable two-thirds majority in the powerful lower house, the poll suggested.

The survey was conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday across the nation, with more than 73,000 eligible voters questioned by phone.

A two-thirds majority in parliament would allow Abe, 63, to push through an amendment to Japan’s pacifist constitution.

The hawkish premier has called for changes to the US-imposed law so Japan can turn its self-defence forces into a full-fledged army.

Gloves off as Japan PM Shinzo Abe and opposition leader Yuriko Koike begin campaigning for snap election

Support for Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s newly founded Party of Hope, which has transformed Japan’s political landscape and swallowed up the main opposition Democratic Party, appears to be declining, with surveys predicting it might win up to 54 seats.

After an initial burst of support for the media-savvy Koike, critics say the Tokyo governor has suffered by not running herself in the election, meaning voters for her party are not sure who they are electing as PM.

“Expectations were high but the Party of Hope has nothing but Koike’s popularity,” said Koji Nakakita, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

“Support for Abe’s cabinet is not so high but voters have no choice but to vote for Abe’s LDP,” Nakakita said.

Could rapidly rising Koike become a bigger hawk than Abe?

The 12-day election campaign has focused on reviving Japan’s once world-beating economy and tackling the ever-present threat of North Korea which has threatened to “sink” the country into the sea.

“This is an election to question how we can protect our people’s lives and good living from North Korea’s threats,” Abe said at a campaign rally in the northern city of Hokkaido on Sunday.

Abe is seeking a fresh term at the helm of the Asian economic powerhouse and key US ally and unexpectedly called a snap election to capitalise on a weak and fractured opposition.

But Koike, 65, stole his limelight by launching her party, attacking Abe’s government for being too slow to reform the country, weighed down by an ageing population, deflation and a huge debt mountain.

Critics say Abe called the early election to divert attention from a string of scandals, including allegations of favouritism to a friend in a business deal, which the premier strongly denies.