Japan parliament re-elects Abe as prime minister

Japan parliament re-elects Abe as prime minister

Japan's parliament re-elected Shinzo Abe today to serve another term as prime minister after his party won a snap election earlier this month.

Abe won 328 votes out of the 470 cast by lawmakers in a special session of the lower house today. Since the ruling Liberal Democrats hold only two lower house seats, two other lawmakers also cast votes for Abe.

Following a similar vote by the upper house, Abe will name his cabinet, replacing only his defense minister. The cabinet members are then to be presented in a formal ceremony to Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace.

The victory by the ruling Liberal Democrats and their coalition partner the Komei Party was viewed as an endorsement by the public of Abe's strategies for reviving Japan's stagnant economy, despite a record low turnout.

Former Defense Minister Akinori Eto was among cabinet ministers appointed in a reshuffle in early September. He was one of several ministers whose political funding reports were questioned by opposition lawmakers during the recent parliamentary session.

Two resigned their cabinet posts but were re-elected anyway.

The questions over political finance pulled Abe's popularity ratings lower and were likely a factor in his decision to call the snap election. Analysts said Eto's handling of the questions was seen as too weak, and that Abe planned to appoint a stronger figure to help handle anticipated fierce questioning over defense-related issues in the next year's parliamentary debate.

Local media said Gen Nakatani was viewed as the likely replacement for Eto. Nakatani served as defense minister under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and supports a stronger role for Japan's military, which is constrained by the country's commitment to pacifism under the constitution drafted by the American occupation forces following Japan's defeat in World War II.

Abe favors revising the constitution as part of his effort to fortify Japan's military. Despite a record low turnout, the election's outcome was seen as a public endorsement of Abe's policies. But it also raises expectations for him to more aggressively tackle politically tough reforms for reviving the economy, two years after he first took office.

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