UPDATE: Mainichi has a neat gallery of photos from election day and the campaign.
It looks like incumbent prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party have scored one of the biggest landslides in Japanese postwar history. And that is saying something, given that the LDP routinely used to hold comfortable majorities until its power eroded from the late 1980s on.
It looks like the LDP has won around 63% of the seats in the lower house of parliament, a level it had not attained since 1960.
Given an election campaign fought almost exclusively on Koizumi’s plan to privatize Japan Post, it is clear he has a mandate for that policy change, though other issues were hardly raised in the campaign. Koizumi certainly feels triumphant:
We destroyed the old LDP, and the LDP became like a new party.
The remark underscores the extent to which it was his own party, at least as much as opposition parties, who have stood in the way of his reforms.
In the cases where defectors from the LDP who voted against the Japan Post plan had been challenged in their own single-seat districts by new LDP candidates dubbed ‘assassins,’ the result is mixed. At this point I have found reports on the Mainichi site about only four of the seats, and the ‘assassins’ have won two of them.
The privatization bill was actually passed in the lower house, despite the 37 defections from the LDP, but it was defeated in the upper house, which was not at stake in today’s election (because the PM cannot dissolve the upper house). Nonetheless, with this electoral result, the recalcitrant LDP members in the upper chamber can be expected to fall back in line with their party.
The LDP will still retain its coalition with the New Komeito Party. Komeito’s votes are needed in the upper house, where the LDP is short of a majority. (Only the lower house has the right to vote no confidence in the government and to approve the budget, but other measures must gain bicameral approval.)