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Shizuoka by-election highlights mistrust in LDP-led coalition

Tokyo, Oct. 25 (Jiji Press)–The Liberal Democratic Party’s failure to keep a House of Councillors seat in Sunday’s by-election in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, highlighted voters’ smoldering mistrust of the LDP-led coalition.

There seems to be no clear way for the LDP to change the situation in the run-up to next Sunday’s election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the country’s parliament.

Meanwhile, the opposition camp will seek to leverage the by-election win to make a late spurt for the general election.

“I accept the verdict of the prefecture’s citizens seriously,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also LDP president, told reporters in Tokyo on Monday morning.

“We’ll pull our socks up and continue to strive for the election to choose the next government,” Kishida said.

The Shizuoka by-election and another by-election on the same day, held in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi, were the first parliamentary elections since Kishida took office on Oct. 4.

The Shizuoka poll followed the resignation of an LDP lawmaker elected from there. The LDP was aiming to gain momentum for the upcoming Lower House election by keeping the Upper House seat.

On Oct. 7, when the official campaign period started for the Shizuoka election, Kishida delivered a speech before JR Shizuoka Station, stressing, “I hope to see your willingness to leave (government) to Kishida.”

Kishida visited the prefecture again on Thursday, and other senior LDP officials including Secretary-General Akira Amari have also campaigned there.

Nonetheless, the LDP’s candidate lost to an independent contender backed by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People by a margin of about 50,000 votes.

Some in the ruling coalition attribute the opposition-backed candidate’s victory to full support from Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu and argue that the by-election result will have no connection with the Lower House poll.

Still, given that another candidate, fielded by the Japanese Communist Party, garnered about 110,000 votes in the by-election, it can be said that the LDP suffered a crushing election defeat.

For the Lower House election, the opposition camp has unified candidates in 213 of the 289 single-seat constituencies.

In the by-election, about 60 pct of swing voters supported the candidate endorsed by the CDP and the DPFP, and 10 pct backed the JCP candidate, according to an exit poll by Jiji Press.

“We could see the same trend in the Lower House election,” said a veteran LDP lawmaker, adding that people appear to remember their frustration with Kishida’s two immediate predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga.

On Monday evening, Kishida held a meeting with Amari and other LDP executives at the party’s headquarters to discuss its end-game strategy for the general election.

“We have no choice but to focus our energy on closely contested constituencies,” a party executive said before the meeting.

Speaking to reporters in the western city of Takamatsu on Monday, CDP leader Yukio Edano stressed that there is persistent mistrust in and frustration with the LDP-led coalition.

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