Japanese PM concedes election
Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda concedes defeat in the general election and steps down as head of the Democratic Party of Japan.PT0M0S 620 349
TOKYO: Nationalist parties seized power in Japan on Sunday, and the man expected to become prime minister immediately fired a warning to China over the disputed ownership of islands that have caused months of diplomatic tension.
Shinzo Abe, who led the Liberal Democratic Party to victory in a general election, said there was no doubt about his country's ownership of the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, but the Diaoyus in China. "China is challenging the fact that [the islands] are Japan's inherent territory," said Mr Abe. "Our objective is to stop the challenge. We don't intend to worsen relations between Japan and China."
Despite the Liberal Democrats' name, Mr Abe's party is conservative and struck a nationalistic tone throughout the election, promising a return to prosperity for the world's third-largest economy and a more assertive foreign policy. Exit polls said Mr Abe's party would win as many as 310 seats in the 480-seat lower house of the Diet, a jump of almost 200 seats.
Back with a vengeance ... Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe places a paper rose on an LDP candidate's name to indicate an election victory at the party's headquarters in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Bloomberg
The Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, conceded defeat last night after his Democratic Party of Japan was humbled. He resigned as leader, calling the results "extremely severe".
The party was expected to scrape together 77 seats at most, compared with 230 previously, and the defeat ends a three-year spell that interrupted the LDP's grasp on power for most of the postwar era.
The LDP's ally, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito Party, was expected to contribute another 35 seats to the total, which would give Mr Abe a "supermajority" and the power to overrule parliament's upper house. Even more indicative of the rise of the right was the estimated 61 seats that the Japan Restoration Party is expected to claim when the final results are in. Only founded in November, the party is led by the unrepentant nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, the former governor of Tokyo, who has said he intends to restore the nation's dented pride.
A boy helps his mother cast her vote in the general election at a polling station in Funabashi, suburban Tokyo. Photo: Tadayuki YOSHIKAWA
He has already suggested there is a need for Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons, expand the military and revise the pacifist constitution.
Mr Ishihara provoked the tensions between Japan and China over the islands in April when he announced he would buy them from their private owners and administer them as part of Tokyo.
Jun Okumura, a political analyst with the Eurasia Group, described the achievement of Mr Ishihara's party as "pretty impressive" and said that the vote marked a "fairly significant shift to the right". However, he said the New Komeito Party would "put a brake on some of Mr Abe's more extreme ambitions".
During the campaign Mr Abe underlined his nationalistic views and the need to stand up to China.
He also announced before polling day that he would travel to Washington in January to meet President Barack Obama, with the issue of stemming China's rising influence top of the agenda.
Mr Abe, whose father was foreign minister and grandfather was prime minister, previously served as prime minister for exactly a year from September 26, 2006, but was forced to step down due to poor public support ratings and, more worryingly, a chronic stomach complaint.
Ahead of the results, China's state Xinhua news agency urged Japan to seek a post-election foreign policy that would "repair strained ties with neighbours".