WhyItMatters

Big poll win can boost Abe's clout

Japan votes tomorrow in an Upper House election where 121 out of 242 seats are up for grabs.

A regime change is not possible - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sits in the more powerful Lower House - and media polls predict that his ruling coalition will emerge with a firmer grip on power. The election is, nonetheless, keenly watched for economic and security reasons.

A strong win for Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and ally Komeito will be viewed as a mandate to shore up the flagging Abenomics recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and reform. Further, the coalition controls the Lower House and if it gets a two-thirds majority in the Upper House, it can push forward a referendum on revising the war-renouncing Constitution.

The Japanese see Mr Abe and the LDP as a stable pair of hands. Before he took office in December 2012, Japan underwent a revolving door of five premiers in as many years. The election is taking place with recent external shocks fresh in voters' minds, such as the Brexit that drove up the value of the yen and the Dhaka terror attack that killed seven Japanese aid workers.

Mr Abe has admitted that his policies "are still insufficient", noting that the man in the street has yet to fully feel the impact of Abenomics. But noting the botched reign of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan from 2009 to 2012, he said: "If we halt these policies now, it would be a return to that dark era. What we need is to firmly advance on this path."

The LDP also wants to revise the Constitution to give Japan's Self-Defence Forces more bite overseas - though a senior party lawmaker said earlier this week that there would be no such immediate moves.

Japan is embroiled in separate territorial disputes with China, South Korea and Russia, and any bid to rewrite this clause could upset its neighbours in an increasingly heated geopolitical environment.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Big poll win can boost Abe's clout'. Print Edition | Subscribe