Japan’s LDP Loses One of 2 Closely Watched By-Elections

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers questions from reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday morning following the results of the two parliamentary by-electons.

Tokyo, Oct. 23 (Jiji Press)—Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost one of the two parliamentary by-elections held Sunday, which may possibly make it difficult for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to dissolve the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament, by year-end.

The LDP won the other by-election. But the outcomes are expected to deal a blow to Kishida, also president of the LDP. The party had both contested seats before the elections.

The by-elections, both head-to-head battles between the ruling and opposition sides, were the first parliamentary polls since Kishida reshuffled his cabinet and the LDP’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.

Although Kishida will stress his resolve to shore up the economy by compiling a set of new measures during the Diet debates, the view is expected to grow that it is difficult for the prime minister to dissolve the Lower House for a general election by the end of this year as the LDP lost one of the by-elections.

“The elections were really tough,” LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo. “By humbly accepting the election results, we will face full-scale Diet debates with a sense of tension,” he said.

Hiroshi Ogushi, election strategy chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, noted that voters said no to Kishida’s administration.

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.

At a time when public support rates for his cabinet have plummeted, Kishida visited the electoral districts to seek voter support for the LDP’s candidates. On Friday, Kishida announced a plan to consider conducting income tax cuts.

But the moves failed to fully impress voters.

In the by-election for a seat in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, in the district covering the neighboring western prefectures of Kochi and Tokushima, independent Hajime Hirota, 55, a former Lower House member of the CDP, defeated LDP candidate Ken Nishiuchi, 56, a former Kochi prefectural assembly member, who was backed by Komeito.

Hirota garnered 233,250 votes, against 142,036 votes for Nishiuchi.

The Upper House seat was vacated by the resignation in June of Kojiro Takano, who also left the LDP, for using violence against his secretary.

In the Lower House by-election in the No. 4 single-seat constituency in the southwestern prefecture of Nagasaki, LDP candidate Yozo Kaneko, 40, a former securities company worker and the eldest son of a former Upper House member, beat CDP candidate Seiichi Suetsugu, a 60-year-old former Lower House member. Kaneko was backed by Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP, while Suetsugu was supported by the Social Democratic Party, a small opposition party.

Kaneko collected 53,915 votes while 46,899 votes went to Suetsugu.

The Lower House by-election came after the LDP’s Seigo Kitamura, former regional revitalization minister, who had held the Nagasaki No. 4 constituency seat, died in May.

Voter turnout hit a record low of 32.16 pct in the by-election in the Kochi-Tokushima district, down 14.37 percentage points from the triennial Upper House election in 2022.

Turnout came to 42.19 pct in the by-election in the Nagasaki No. 4 constituency, also a record low and down 12.89 points from the Lower House general election in 2021.