20 February 2019
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters as he arrives at his office in Tokyo on July 3. Photo: Reuters
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters as he arrives at his office in Tokyo on July 3. Photo: Reuters

Japan PM vows to regain public trust after Tokyo election loss

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he will work to regain the public’s trust after his ruling party suffered a crushing defeat in a Tokyo assembly election over the weekend.

“I want to regain the people’s trust by unifying the party and … showing results,” Abe told reporters.

“It was a severe judgment suggesting (voters) thought the Abe administration was getting slack,” Abe said, according to Reuters.

“We must accept this firmly and seriously and make every effort to return to our original aspirations of when we regained power.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost to an upstart outfit in the election on Sunday, signaling trouble ahead for the premier, who has seen support wane amid a favoritism scandal.

In the Tokyo Metropolitan assembly election, the Tomin First (Tokyo Citizens First) party and its allies took 79 seats in the 127-seat assembly, while the LDP won a mere 23, its worst-ever results, compared with 57 before the election.

Tomin First is led by Yuriko Koike, who has been the governor of Tokyo.

While the assembly election was seen as referendum on Koike’s year in office, the dismal showing for Abe’s party marks a stinging rebuke of Abe’s four-and-a-half-year old national government.

A spate of scandals has eroded support for Abe, and Sunday’s vote may stir criticism within the LDP, where potential rivals are positioning themselves to try and end his run as Japan’s premier.

The result may spur the prime minister to shuffle his Cabinet and slow his controversial push to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, Bloomberg News noted.

Abe’s recent troubles center on concern he may have intervened to help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution) win approval for a veterinary school in a special economic zone.

Its director, Kotaro Kake, is a friend of Abe’s.

The government has not granted such an approval in decades due to a perceived glut of veterinarians, Reuters noted.

Abe and his aides have denied doing Kake any favors.

Potentially more devastating is the impression among many voters that Abe and his inner circle have grown arrogant.

“We must accept the results humbly,” Reuters quoted Hakubun Shimomura, a close Abe ally and head of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter, as saying.

“The voters have handed down an extremely severe verdict.”

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