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Abe wins big, lists priorities


Tokyo, October 24- Japan’s Prime Minister has vowed to make education and childcare a priority over balancing the budget after winning a new mandate from voters on Sunday, as a rapidly-ageing population threatens to undermine his efforts to reflate the economy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition scored a landslide victory at the polls, boosted by his campaign promises to invest more heavily on education and childcare, aimed partly at encouraging more women to join the workforce.
But Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favour revising Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution, will need to convince a divided public to succeed.
Parties in favour of amending the US-drafted charter won nearly 80 per cent of the seats in Sunday’s lower house election, media counts showed. That left the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the biggest group opposed to Abe’s proposed changes.
Formed by liberal members of the Democratic Party, which imploded before the election and no longer exists in the lower house, the CDPJ won 55 seats, a final count by public broadcaster NHK shows. That is a fraction of the ruling bloc’s two-thirds majority of 313 seats in the 465-member chamber.
Abe said he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new conservative Party of Hope, and was not insisting on a target of changing the constitution by 2020 that he floated this year.
“We won a two-thirds majority as the ruling bloc, but it is necessary to strive to form a wide-ranging agreement among the ruling bloc and opposition (to revise the constitution),” Abe told a news conference on Monday.
“And then we aim to win the understanding of the people, so that we can gain a majority in a referendum,” Abe said. He stopped short of claiming to have won a mandate for amending the constitution in Sunday’s election.
Abe also made clear he would continue to press cautious Japanese firms to spend their record cash piles on boosting employees’ wages to stoke a virtuous growth cycle.
With his “Abenomics” recipe centred on hyper-easy monetary policy likely to continue, Abe’s solid election win also raised expectations he would reappoint Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda in early April when his five-year term expires.
Abe swept to power in late 2012, pledging to pull Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, out of nearly two decades of deflation and stagnation. The economy is recovering gradually but sluggish wage growth keeps consumer spending and inflation from accelerating, while corporations face labour shortages due to a low birth rate and fast-ageing population.
The premier promised to offer free pre-school for all children aged three to five and for children aged two or below from low-income households. “The key to Japan’s sustainable growth is how we respond to ageing of the population, which is the biggest challenge for Abenomics,” Abe told a news conference.

 

 

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