Shinzo Abe tightens grip on power after Japan elections
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strengthened his grip on power as his ruling coalition scored a s tronger-than-expected victory in parliamentary elections.
Voters chose stability and hopes for economic revival over opposition pleas to stop the prime minister from building a more assertive military.
Half of the seats of the less powerful upper house - 121 - were up for grabs in Sunday's vote.
There had been no possibility of a change of power because the coalition, headed by Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, already controls the more powerful lower house.
But it was a key gauge of how much support the coalition has among the public, and t he Liberal Democrats won 56 of the 121 seats up for grabs.
The party's coalition partner Komeito won 14 seats, and the total of 70 was far better than the goal of a combined 61 seats set by Mr Abe.
The number may grow if independent candidates join the coalition, common in Japanese elections, and if there are defections from the soundly defeated opposition.
Mr A be appeared before TV cameras at party headquarters late on Sunday to pin red flowers, indicating confirmed wins, next to his candidates' names written on a big board.
"I am honestly so relieved," he said, promising new government spending to help move the economy out of the doldrums in a "total and aggressive" way.
With their pro-business policies, the Liberal Democrats have ruled Japan almost continuously since the Second World War, and until recently enjoyed solid support from rural areas.
The few years the opposition held power coincided with the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that devastated north-eastern Japan. The opposition fell out of favour after being heavily criticised for its feeble reconstruction efforts.
Combined with other conservative politicians, the coalition has a two-thirds majority in the upper house, which is needed to propose any referendum to change the constitution, written by the US after Japan's defeat in the Second World War.
The constitution has a clause that limits Japan's well-equipped army, navy and air force to self-defence.
Many members of Japan's military do not anticipate becoming involved in overseas wars, expecting their work to be limited to disaster relief.
But some Japanese increasingly agree with Mr Abe's views on security because of growing fears about terrorism, the recent missile launches by North Korea and China's military assertiveness.