World News – Japan’s conservative opposition swept to victory in national polls Sunday, giving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a second chance to promote his hawkish security agenda and reflate the economy.
Voters decisively abandoned Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three years after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a change from more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Abe, who spent the campaign pledging to bolster Japan’s defences and stand up to China over disputed islands, secured a handsome majority for the LDP in the election for the powerful lower house of parliament, exit polls showed.
Abe, whose brief stint as premier in 2006-7 ended ignominiously, has also vowed to rectify the listless economy after years of deflation, made worse by a soaring currency that has squeezed exporters.
He also offered to boost spending on infrastructure at a time when much of the tsunami-wrecked northeast remains a shell of its former self.
Abe’s calls were criticised by opponents as a return to the LDP’s “construction state” of the last century which left the countryside riddled with underused bridges and roads to nowhere.
NHK television, citing forecasts based on its own exit polls, said the LDP had won 275 to 310 seats in the 480-seat lower house, with the DPJ reduced to a rump of between 55 and 77 seats. It won more than 300 seats in the 2009 poll.
New Komeito, LDP’s junior coalition partner, had 27 to 35 seats, NHK said.
That could give the pair a more than two-thirds majority in the powerful lower house, enough to override the upper chamber in which no party has overall control.
“The LDP sweeps to victory; Abe administration to start,” the online edition of the Nikkei newspaper said in a banner headline.
Analysts say the LDP’s victory has come by default, with voters disenchanted by the DPJ after three years of flip-flops, policy missteps and diplomatic drift, but having little faith in any of the alternatives.
Voter turnout, measured half an hour before the polls closed, was 45.42 percent, down more than seven points on the last election. Agencies