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Japan's ruling party loses 1 of 2 by-elections in blow to PM Kishida

Japan's ruling party loses 1 of 2 by-elections in blow to PM Kishida

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost one of two House of Councillors by-elections held Sunday, according to Kyodo News exit polls and early returns, dealing a blow to the party and its leader Prime Minister Fumio Kishida with just a week until the general election. The defeat in the central prefecture of Shizuoka was a warning sign for Kishida, who took office less than a month ago promising to take stronger COVID-19 countermeasures and implement a "new capitalism" that puts the country on a growth track while redistributing wealth to the middle class. People listen to a politician giving a stump speech in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, on Oct. 23, 2021, ahead of a general election on Oct. 31. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo Former prefectural assembly member Shinnosuke Yamazaki, a 40-year-old independent backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and another opposition party, beat the LDP's Yohei Wakabayashi, 49, who was previously the mayor of Gotemba. The by-elections for vacant seats in the upper chamber of parliament were the first national contests since Kishida replaced his unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, and closely watched as a bellwether for next Sunday's general election. The other race in the conservative stronghold of Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan was won by former parliamentary vice industry minister Tsuneo Kitamura, 66. Media polls for the general election suggest the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, will retain their majority in the 465-member House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber. Kishida has said such an outcome would be enough to claim a mandate for the implementation of his COVID-19 and economic policies. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, makes a stump speech in Osaka on Oct. 24, 2021, ahead of a general election on Oct. 31. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo "We must push forward with reforms in order to revive the Japanese economy and put it on a growth track," he said in a stump speech in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, on Sunday. But the LDP faces the prospect of losing seats as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition forces have set aside their differences to consolidate candidates across hundreds of voting districts. "We are going to make drastic changes to the government's COVID-19 response, which has been behind the curve, and move away from economic policies that have made a small group of people rich and failed to spark growth," CDPJ leader Yukio Edano told reporters on the campaign trail in Kobe. The Shizuoka by-election was held to fill a single-member district seat vacated by the LDP's Shigeki Iwai, who made an unsuccessful bid for Shizuoka governor in June. Chika Suzuki, 50, of the Japanese Communist Party also ran. In Yamaguchi, Kitamura handily defeated the Japanese Communist Party's Kiyo Kawai, 61, a former prefectural assembly member, and 30-year-old Shota Harada, more widely known as YouTuber Hezumaryu. Kitamura already had an upper house seat via proportional representation but gave it up to run for the seat in the single-member district, which was vacated by former education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to run in the general election. Related coverage: Nearly 30% to vote for ruling party in Japan's general election: Kyodo poll Japan party heads vie for support on 1st weekend of election race A guide to Japan's upcoming House of Representatives election

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