Japan Ruling Party Scores Local Wins as PM’s Support Steadies

(Bloomberg) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party won several closely watched local races in nationwide elections that saw a record number of women take seats.

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Among the successful LDP candidates, incumbent Naomichi Suzuki retained the governorship of the northernmost main island of Hokkaido in the Sunday elections. Kiichiro Sato was successful in the southwestern prefecture of Oita, where opposition parties have often been strong, Kyodo News reported.

The results came after Kishida’s surprise visit to Ukraine in March and a reconciliation with South Korea helped stem a slide in his popularity. Speculation has been simmering that recent survey results may prompt him to call a general election after hosting the Group of Seven summit in his hometown of Hiroshima in May.

The party did suffer some losses, with the opposition Japan Innovation Party retaining the governorship of the major western prefecture of Osaka as well as winning the mayoral election in Osaka city, despite local opposition to plans for a casino. The party also won in the neighboring Nara prefecture.

A poll carried out by the Asahi newspaper April 8-9 found Kishida’s support had slipped slightly to 38%, while 45% of respondents said they didn’t support him.

Sunday’s elections saw a record 14% of seats taken by women at various levels of local government, up on 10.4% four years ago, Kyodo said. The percentages varied widely by party, with only 5.9% of those winning under the LDP banner being female, while 27% of successful candidates from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party were women.

By comparison, a study published by the Fawcett Society and Democracy Club earlier this month found 36% of local councilors in the UK were women.

One of the biggest pushes from Kishida in recent weeks to win over voters has been a raft of new proposals to incentivize people to have children. The prime minister has warned the aging country had only a few years to put the brakes on a demographic slide that threatens the economy.

But the poll by the Asahi showed that 61% of respondents didn’t have high expectations for the government’s new policies.

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