Exit polls show win for Japanese PM Abe’s ruling coalition

TOKYO (AP) — Exit polls indicated Sunday that Japanese voters have returned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition to power in national elections.

Japanese media projected shortly after polls closed that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito would win a clear majority and might even retain their two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament.

Abe dissolved the lower house less than a month ago, forcing the snap election. Up for grabs are 465 seats in the more powerful chamber, which chooses the prime minister.

An election victory would boost Abe’s chances of winning another three-year term next September as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. That could extend his premiership to 2021, giving him more time to pursue his longtime goal of revising Japan’s postwar constitution.

Analysts initially thought that a new opposition party launched by populist Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike could put a dent in the ruling coalition’s majority.

But Japanese public broadcaster NHK projected that Koike’s Party of Hope would win just 38 to 59 seats in the 465-seat lower house.

Koike called the results “very severe” in a televised interview from Paris, where she is attending a conference of mayors. She said some of her remarks might have been taken negatively by voters, and that she would take the blame.

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