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Victory improves Abe's hand


08:17, July 22, 2013

Japanese leader given more say to continue right-wing approach

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition sealed a decisive victory in Sunday's upper house election, a win analysts said may embolden Abe's right-wing political claims and further complicate ties with neighbors.
The victory allows the ruling camp to take control of all standing committees, facilitating the passage of bills, as it already holds an overwhelming majority in the more powerful lower house.

This was the first national vote since Abe took office in December. By press time, the Liberal Democratic Party and partner New Komeito had won more than 70 of the 121 seats at stake, half of the entire 242 seats in the upper house.

With the coalition's uncontested 59 seats, it will have a majority in the upper house.

The win for the Liberal Democrats also ended a "twisted Diet", where the opposition-controlled upper house sought to block legislation and hamper policies since Abe's humiliating defeat in the 2007 election.

"The Abe administration can become a long-term regime," said Koji Nakakita, a professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. "It even has the potential to go beyond the next three years."

Experts said that stable control of the two houses for the first time in six years may help Abe push through his long-standing

The Liberal Democratic Party has called for changing Article 96 of Japan's constitution to lower the threshold for amendment to a simple majority of all members of each chamber of the Diet, instead of the two-thirds required at present.

Huo Jiangang, an expert on Japanese studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said it remains difficult for the party to make the move, although the Abe administration's control over Japanese society has now reached a new height, as seen from the election result.

"Its coalition partner New Komeito openly objects to revising the constitution, and it takes a two-third majority from both houses as well as a national referendum to push through this clause," Huo said. "Also, the public is not very interested in such matters."

Abe found popularity in Japan amid a stagnant economy by practicing "Abenomics", which has lifted the stock market, boosted business confidence and helped exporters by weakening the yen since he took office after the Liberal Democrats won a lower house election in December.

"We are at the threshold of economic recovery. There is no mistake about the policies that we are carrying out," Abe was quoted by AFP as saying.

Wu Huaizhong, a researcher of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe needs to realign the nation's economic and political relationship with China.

"Abe will have to pull close to China on economic cooperation, but on territorial issues, he will probably not concede," Wu said.

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