Abe vows to make economy his top priority

Fresh from a big election win, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also indicated his eagerness to revise the nation's war-renouncing Constitution.
Fresh from a big election win, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also indicated his eagerness to revise the nation's war-renouncing Constitution.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Outline of new policies and tax reforms by the end of this month

Fresh from Sunday's landslide victory, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to make economic management his top priority and to unveil new economic policies by the year end.

At the same time, he also indicated his eagerness to revise the country's war-renouncing Constitution.

His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with its junior partner Komeito, on Sunday won a total of 326 seats - more than the 317 needed for a two-thirds majority in the 475-seat Lower House.

He had billed the election as a referendum on "Abenomics", his growth policies aimed at eradicating deflation, based on loose monetary policy, government spending and structural reforms.

"Economic management was the biggest point of contention in the election. People have told us that we should move further ahead with Abenomics," Mr Abe told a press conference yesterday, referring to his renewed mandate.

The government plans to put together an outline of new economic policies and tax reforms by the end of this month.

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Mr Abe is widely seen to have called the snap election to give himself another four years in power to push an agenda that includes restarting idled nuclear plants and revising the Constitution. He also plans to foster patriotism through moral education classes in schools.

He said rewriting the Constitution has always been the objective of the LDP.

"It is most important to get the support of a majority of the people through a referendum. As LDP president, I wish to deepen the people's understanding and broaden their support," he said yesterday.

Public interest in the election had been sluggish. According to the Interior Affairs Ministry, the voter turnout fell to a new low of 52.66 per cent. The previous record was 59.32 per cent in 2012.

LDP lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi, who easily retained his seat in his ward south of Tokyo, lamented the lack of excitement in the election and the party's victory.

The second son of former premier Junichiro Koizumi who is often touted as a future prime minister warned that the LDP will not have a second chance.

"Having been given so many seats, the LDP will not be allowed to make excuses," he said after his win.

Many opposition politicians failed to retain their seats. The biggest casualty was opposition leader Banri Kaieda, who has decided to resign as chairman of the biggest opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Defeated in his central Tokyo ward, Mr Kaieda also failed to return to Parliament on the party's proportional representation ticket because of insufficient votes.

The DPJ's Mr Naoto Kan, a former prime minister, also lost in his western Tokyo constituency. But he managed to get back into the Lower House after election officials confirmed yesterday morning that he could take up the last of the 180 proportional representation seats at stake.

The DPJ is expected to elect another leader before the new Cabinet is inaugurated on Dec 24.

Mr Abe is expected to re-appoint all his current ministers to the new Cabinet to minimise disruption to policymaking and implementation.

wengkin@sph.com.sg

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