Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition wins big in Senate election

TOKYO, July 10 (UPI) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe increased his majority in the Parliament’s Upper House, election exit polls and early voting suggest Sunday, giving him a mandate to push his economic policies.

Abe’s coalition of his Liberal Democratic Party, Komei and two minor parties won a combined 74 Senate seats, adding to its current 88 for a super majority of 162, the Japanese Times reported from Koyoda News. Half of the 242 seats in the upper House are up for election.

Abe appeared at party headquarters about two hours after polls closed at 8 p.m. local time. He placed rosettes on the winners of each candidate from his party.

“I’m relieved that we were able to secure more than … half the seats contested,” he said.

The largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, is projected to lose some of its 47 contested seats, NHK projects.

By achieving the two-thirds super majority of 162 in the Upper House to match that in the Lower House, Abe could conduct a referendum on constitutional change, including military constraints.

Abe wants to change Article 9, which forbids Japan from fighting wars abroad. It was imposed by the United States after Japan lost in World War II in 1945. The constitution has not been modified since 1947.

“This election was not fought on whether or not to change the constitution,” Abe told TBS as reported by Bloomberg. “I think we are expected to debate thoroughly in the constitutional panel which articles should be changed, while understanding spreads among the people.”

Abe also is pushing his economic policies, known as Abenomics, which he said are only “half done.”

In a bid to curb inflation, he delayed a planned increase in the sales tax last month. He also wants to increase the economy by 20 percent to $6 trillion.

“This is the people’s voice letting us firmly move forward,” Abe said.

It’s the first nationwide election with the voting age lowered from 20 to 18.

One hour after the polls closed, voter turnout was estimated at 54.06 percent, slightly above 52.61 percent in theUpper House election in 2013.

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