Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc won a decisive election victory on Sunday, cementing his grip on power but raising the possibility he could lose interest in difficult economic reform and shift focus to his nationalist agenda instead.
The win in the election for parliament’s upper house gives the hawkish Abe a stronger mandate for his “Abenomics” recipe to revive the economy and sets the stage for the first stable government since popular Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006.
But it also raises concern about him keeping his victorious party in line. “The outcome of this election shows that the public wants politics that can make decisions and (a government) that can push forward policies,” Abe told NHK public television.
The win spells a personal political redemption for Abe, who led his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a humiliating defeat in a 2007 upper house poll in his first term as premier.
The ensuing parliamentary deadlock allowed the opposition to block legislation and led to Abe’s resignation two months later.
That “twisted parliament” has hampered policies for most of the six years since and led to a string of revolving-door leaders.
Abe, 58, who returned to power after a big win in December’s lower house poll for his LDP and coalition partner New Komeito, reiterated that he would remain focused on fixing the economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and a growth strategy including structural reforms.
“We’ve argued that our economic policies aren’t mistaken, and the public gave us their support. People now want to feel the benefits,” Abe said.