TOKYO: A candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is certain to have lost in Sunday’s by-election for a seat in Japan’s House of Councillors, dealing a heavy blow to Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio.
The result may shake the foundation of the Kishida administration, for which public support is plunging, while opposition parties are expected to gain momentum.
Kishida may also find it difficult to dissolve the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament, for a general election by the end of this year, political watchers said.
The seat contested in the Upper House by-election is for the district covering the neighboring western prefectures of Kochi and Tokushima.
Also on Sunday, a Lower House by-election was held in the No. 4 single-seat constituency in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The by-elections, both head-to-head battles between the ruling and opposition camps, were the first parliamentary polls since Kishida, also president of the LDP, reshuffled his cabinet and the ruling party’s leadership team in mid-September.
On Monday, Kishida is set to deliver a policy speech at the extraordinary Diet session that opened Friday. Following the speech, full-scale parliamentary debates between the ruling and opposition blocs will kick off.
At issue in the by-elections were measures to deal with soaring prices in Japan and voters’ evaluation of the administration of Kishida, who became prime minister two years ago.
On Friday, Kishida announced a plan to consider conducting income tax cuts, but this failed to impress voters in the Kochi-Tokushima district.
In the Upper House by-election, independent Hajime Hirota, 55, a former Lower House member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the country’s leading opposition party, is believed to have defeated LDP candidate Ken Nishiuchi, 56, a former Kochi prefectural assembly member, who was backed by Komeito.
The Upper House seat in the Kochi-Tokushima district was vacated by the resignation in June of Kojiro Takano, who also left the LDP, for using violence against his secretary.