Shizuoka, April 26 (Jiji Press)–A Liberal Democratic Party candidate on Sunday won a House of Representatives by-election in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, defeating a key contender backed by four major opposition parties.
The LDP-led ruling coalition has welcomed the result. A defeat would have dealt an additional blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which faces increasing criticism over its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The LDP candidate, Yoichi Fukazawa, 43, a former Shizuoka prefectural assembly member, won the contest in the Lower House’s Shizuoka No. 4 constituency, the first Diet election this year.
Fukazawa, backed by the LDP’s ally, Komeito, collected 66,881 votes, against 38,566 votes earned by former Tokyo metropolitan assembly member Ken Tanaka, 42, who was supported by the opposition camp, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
Voter turnout stood at 34.10 pct, down 19.62 percentage points from the 2017 Lower House general election. The reading was a record low for the constituency.
The sharp decrease apparently resulted from voluntary restraints on going out, which intensified after the government expanded the state of emergency over the coronavirus crisis nationwide April 16. Before the expansion, Shizuoka was not included in the area of the emergency.
The by-election followed the death of former Environment Minister and LDP member Yoshio Mochizuki in December last year. The LDP won a parliamentary by-election for the first time since October 2016.
The ruling bloc hopes to enact a draft supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 on Thursday before working out additional measures to reduce the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the economy.
In Tokyo, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters that his party will work hard in Diet deliberations on the supplementary budget.
The opposition camp, also including the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, took a beating because the by-election was its effective one-on-one battle with the ruling side.
The JCP withdrew its own candidate to help establish the four-party cooperation.
CDPJ election committee head Akira Nagatsuma said his party will draw a lesson from the defeat and ramp up efforts to realize a change of government further.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, candidates refrained from holding gatherings or shaking hands with voters during the campaign period, while ruling and opposition party executives in Tokyo stopped short of visiting Shizuoka.
Parties tried to rally support through social media and by reaching voters by telephone.
The remaining two candidates were former company executive Kenzo Yamaguchi, 72, without political affiliation and a 54-year-old former member of the assembly of Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, also named Ken Tanaka.
This Tanaka was a candidate of NHK kara Kokumin wo Mamoru To, a party campaigning against the public broadcaster, whose official name is Japan Broadcasting Corp.
The party put him up to see how a person with exactly the same name as another candidate would perform in an election, party head Takashi Tachibana has said. Tanaka gained 1,747 votes, even lower than Yamaguchi’s 1,887 votes.