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Shinzo Abe sweeps Japan snap election

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to a comfortable victory in a snap election yesterday, handing him a mandate to harden his already hawkish stance on North Korea and re-energise the world’s number-three economy. Abe’s conservative coalition was on track to win 311 seats in the 465-seat parliament, according to a projection published by private broadcaster TBS, putting the nationalist blue blood on course to become Japan’s longest-serving leader. The comfortable election win is likely to stiffen Abe’s resolve to tackle North Korea’s nuclear menace, as the key US regional ally seeks to exert maximum pressure on the regime in Pyongyang after it fired two missiles over Japan in the space of a month. Abe was heading for a “landslide win,” the Yomiuri daily said on its website. Millions of Japanese braved torrential rain and driving winds to vote, as a typhoon bears down on the country with many heeding warnings to cast their ballots early. “I support Abe’s stance not to give in to North Korea’s pressure,” said one voter, Yoshihisa Iemori, as he cast his ballot in rain-swept Tokyo. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) benefitted from a weak and splintered opposition, with the two main parties facing him created only a matter of weeks ago. It was unclear in the immediate aftermath of the vote whether Abe’s coalition would retain its two-thirds “supermajority.” Such a “supermajority” would allow Abe to propose changes to Japan’s US-imposed constitution that forces it to “renounce” war and effectively limits its military to a self-defence role. In the end, the 65-year-old former TV presenter was not even in Japan on election day. “I thought that I would vote for the Party of Hope if it’s strong enough to beat the Abe administration. But the party has been in confusion … I’m quite disappointed,” said 80-year-old pensioner Kumiko Fujimori.–Agencies

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