what it means for Shinzo Abe, economy

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Japan Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe at an election campaign rally in Japan.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition party won a majority in the country’s upper house elections on Sunday — but they failed to secure enough votes needed for Abe’s long-held dream of revising the constitution.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, the Komeito Party, won at least 69 of the 124 seats contested in parliament’s 245-seat upper house — with nine seats yet to be called, according to Japanese media reports.

But the coalition fell short of a two-thirds “super majority” — or 85 seats — needed to revise the country’s constitution. The move would allow Japan to further legitimize its military, and end a ban that has kept its armed forces from fighting abroad since 1945, when World War II ended.

The fact that pro-constitutional revision forces lack a supermajority in the upper house after today’s elections will not prevent Abe from continuing to push to revise the constitution before he leaves office.

Scott Seaman

Eurasia Group

Abe’s grip on power is set to continue, experts say, while he will persist in going after his dream of Japan’s right to possess a military.

“The fact that pro-constitutional revision forces lack a supermajority in the upper house after today’s elections will not prevent Abe from continuing to push to revise the constitution before he leaves office,” Scott Seaman, director of Asia at Eurasia Group, wrote in a note on Sunday.

“Much of his attention in this area will focus on persuading more upper house members — such as politicians in the Democratic Party for the People — to support this cause,” he said, referring to Japan’s second-largest opposition party.

But, according to Seaman, Abe will not likely reach his goal by the end of 2020. That’s in part due to “lukewarm support” from the Komeito Party, left-leaning opposition parties as well as the public, where “many people regard issues such as pension reform and strengthening the economy as more urgent priorities.”

Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase, and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.

— Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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