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Japan Ruling Party is Poised for Major Victory in Today's Elections

By: Ahmed Fathi

Sunday's election was two days after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a powerful politician and power broker.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving modern leader, was assassinated while giving a speech in Nara, western Japan. The political establishment blasted the shooting as an attack on democracy.

NHK's exit poll predicted that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which Abe was a senior member, and its junior partner Komeito would win 69 to 83 of the 125 upper house seats.

LDP candidate Kei Sato alleged former Prime Minister Abe was shot during our election campaign after NHK predicted he'd win in Nara prefecture. Abe was shot while supporting Sato.

We fought terrorism with the conviction that we must beat it, he remarked.

The LDP was predicted to win 59 to 69 upper house seats, up from 55. Before Abe's killing, 69 seats would give the LDP a majority on its own.

Monday brings official results.

Upper house elections are a referendum on the government. Lower house votes on government changes.

Homage to Abe

Strong election results might help Kishida, an Abe acolyte, gain control and increase military spending. It may let him modify Japan's pacifist constitution, something Abe never did.

Exit polls predict parties willing to change the pacifist constitution will preserve their upper chamber majority. Most people want stronger military power, according to polls.

Robert Ward of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says Kishida's apparent victory could lead to higher defense spending, a key LDP election goal. Ward gave Kishida the OK.

Since Abe was wounded with a homemade gun outside a Nara train station on Friday, security has been tightened.

Nara police confiscated a motorcycle and a car from murder suspect Tetsuya Yamagami, 41.

The suspect said investigators he used aluminum foil trays to dry gunpowder and wooden planks with holes to test-fire his weapon.

According to Japanese media, the suspect said police he spent months organizing the attack, blaming the former prime minister for his mother's financial collapse.

Police said the suspect arrived at a station near the attack site more than an hour before and shopped.


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