Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida suffered a blow when his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost a special election on Sunday, a week ahead of a national vote that could determine how long he stays in office.

In a tightly contested race for an upper house seat in Shizuoka prefecture, west of Tokyo, Kishida’s party failed to win over voters with the premier’s pledges to raise incomes, narrow disparities in society and provide a huge stimulus package to help the Covid-19-battered economy.

The LDP won the other upper house seat up for grabs on Sunday that was in a traditional party stronghold in Yamaguchi prefecture.

While polling shows the LDP’s coalition should be able to maintain its majority in the powerful lower house, any major loss of seats in the October 31 vote may hobble Kishida’s young government and increase the chances of him joining a long list of short-serving premiers.

“It was a disappointing result in Shizuoka,” Kishida said on Monday morning. The premier, who took office about three weeks ago, added he will take the vote to heart. He vowed to work harder in the final days ahead of the general election for the powerful lower house of parliament.


Six days to go to the October 31 vote. While polling shows the LDP coalition will prevail, the key factor will be the margin of victory. A significant drop in seats would not bode well for Kishida with the ruling coalition facing an election next year in the upper house. 

Before the 465-seat lower house was dissolved for the vote, the LDP held 276 seats and its junior coalition partner Komeito held 29. The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party held 112 and is trying to build its numbers with pledges to raise the minimum wage and increase taxes on high-income earners. 

Main parties:

  • Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled the country for all but about four of the last 66 years.
  • Komeito, which has been in coalition with the LDP most of the time since 1999. Backed by a Buddhist group, it boasts a powerful machine to turn out the vote.
  • Constitutional Democratic Party, the main opposition group. It is trying to show it can be trusted to run the government again after its predecessor was sent packing in 2012 after a series of policy U-turns.

Other opposition parties include the Japan Communist Party, which held 12 seats in the lower house, Ishin, a metro-based group with 11 seats and the Democratic Party of the People with 10. Independents held 10 seats and there were four vacancies.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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