The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of the prime minister in Japan has scored a major win in local polls, largely considered a barometer of electoral popularity ahead of the July election for parliament’s upper house, state-owned NHK broadcaster reported on Monday.
Shinzo Abe's conservative LDP secured 1,158 of the total 2,277 seats that were up for grabs during the elections held on Sunday, according to the results.
The ruling party had positioned economic revitalization of the country as its lead agenda and Abe hopes to frame the victory in the local elections as a mandate for his Abenomics policies, according to NHK.
People voted to elect governors of 11 prefectures, six mayors and representatives to 41 of the 47 prefectures, as well as municipal assemblies in 17 cities where the LDP won a majority in 25 assemblies, benefiting from a divided opposition.
The LDP's gains included victories in Hokkaido (north) and Aichi (center), which have been traditionally known to support other political groups.
However, certain setbacks such as not being able to secure the influential positions of governor and mayor of Osaka, Japan's third-largest city, and lack of unity in places like Fukuoka (southwest) could be potentially detrimental to the party's prospects in the elections to the upper house, where it currently enjoys a comfortable majority.
Its coalition partner, the Buddhist Komeito, managed to retain the 166 seats it contested from.
The opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan performed relatively well, securing 118 seats, 31 more than predicted by surveys, whereas the Democratic Party for the People lost 59 seats and retained 83.
The Japanese Communist Party, which had members in assemblies at all prefectures when they began their campaign, lost their seven seats in Aichi and ended up with a total of 99, whereas the Japan Innovation Party gained 13 seats to finish with 67.
Japan will hold a second phase of the local elections on Apr 21 during which people will vote to elect the mayors of the different wards of Tokyo, as well as the representatives of the regional assembly in the capital region.
Abe, in a statement published by Kyodo agency, said that they would seriously analyze the results and ensure victory in the second stage of the local elections.