Polls show Abe set for big win as hope dims for new party

Tokyo Governor and leader of the Party of Hope Yuriko Koike (right) and party candidate Yoshiko Ichikawa at a rally yesterday.
Tokyo Governor and leader of the Party of Hope Yuriko Koike (right) and party candidate Yoshiko Ichikawa at a rally yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition is heading for a two-thirds majority in the Oct 22 snap election, surveys have suggested, as a new party founded by popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike runs out of steam.

Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito are likely to win around 300 of 465 seats in the upcoming election, according to a poll by the Nikkei business daily.

Mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said the LDP could secure a stable majority on its own, without needing its coalition partner.

The LDP is likely to win about 289 seats, according to Kyodo News. It estimated Komeito would win 30 seats, giving the ruling coalition a total of 319 - more than two-thirds of the 465 seats up for grabs.

A two-thirds majority in Parliament would allow the hawkish Mr Abe to push through an amendment to Japan's pacifist Constitution, so it can turn its self-defence forces into a full-fledged army.

In the previous Parliament, Mr Abe's ruling bloc held a two-thirds majority, with the LDP holding 287 seats and Komeito 35.

Support for Ms Koike's new Party of Hope, which has transformed Japan's political landscape and swallowed up the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), appears to be deflating, with surveys predicting it might win around 60 seats.

A new centre-left grouping of DP members that did not jump on Ms Koike's bandwagon could clinch 40 seats, said the Yomiuri survey.

The predictions came even as the Nikkei poll showed support for Mr Abe's Cabinet at just 37 per cent, compared with 48 per cent who did not approve of him.

An initial surge of support for Ms Koike faded after she decided not to run in the election herself, meaning voters for her party are not sure who they are electing as premier.

The 12-day election campaign, which kicked off on Tuesday, will focus 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.

 
 

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

Rising tensions with North Korea may be playing to his advantage as incumbent, with polls showing national security among the issues voters see as most important.

Critics, however, say he called the election to divert attention from a string of scandals, including allegations of cronyism.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Polls show Abe set for big win as hope dims for new party'. Print Edition | Subscribe