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In a master political move, Shinzo Abe has reclaimed a two-thirds majority in Japan’s lower house for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito through a landslide electoral victory on 22 October. In the process, Abe also precipitated the demise of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) — the successor party of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) which had convincingly displaced the LDP from power in 2009.

Abe’s opponents in parliament now look even weaker and more fragmented than before. This gives Abe the chance to continue to implement his domestic policy agenda, forge stronger relations with like-minded nations and develop proactive security policy.

Abe’s unexpected announcement in September of a snap election unsettled many political actors. Within the LDP itself, there was a sense of trepidation. Only a few months prior to the announcement, the Abe government was facing a slump in its cabinet approval rating due to numerous scandals and the resignations of some tainted ministers. But there was even greater panic in the opposition camp. The DP had just elected Seiji Maehara as its new president and had failed to develop an alternative policy vision that would distinguish it from the LDP.

To make matters worse for the DP, Tokyo’s popular governor Yuriko Koike announced the establishment of a new national level political party, the Party of Hope. At the instigation of Maehara, many DP members flocked to Hope in search of better political prospects. Unhappy with this a number of the centre-left DP members established a brand new party — the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) — led by Yukio Edano. As a result, the DP, once a challenger to the LDP, has now virtually disbanded. Read more