Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Demoratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe speaks before press at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, one day after general election on October 23, 2017. File photo: VCG
"From now on, it's a new start," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after his ruling camp secured a two-thirds "supermajority" in Sunday's lower house election, adding that he wants to see his "policies implemented and results produced."
Local analysts and media, however, warned that the prime minister's sweeping victory, largely a "win by default," should not be his mandate for a number of controversial policies. He needs to choose the right path to a new direction.
Following a tumultuous year for Abe amid cronyism scandals, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s victory has been largely attributed to a disparate opposition camp. The snap election simply left the now main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Party of Hope little time to prepare for a good fight.
Despite a landslide win for his party, Abe is still facing a low rate of public support. An Asahi Shimbun exit poll showed that 47 percent of the voters did not want Abe to stay as prime minister. In a different poll by Kyodo News, 51 percent said they did not trust him.
Pressure has also been mounting for Abe to tackle what he has termed as "a national crisis," caused by "the biggest challenge facing Japan," which is an aging population and a low birthrate, among others.
Abe stressed Japan's economic "achievements" during his campaign, yet past records have pointed the other way.
The public complain that economic growth has stayed only statistical as they are feeling no practical improvement in day-to-day life. They also accuse the government of failing to deliver its promises again and again.
Abe's platform of using revenue generated by the planned 2019 consumption tax hike for welfare policies instead of reducing the nation' s monumental public debt, the highest in the industrialized world and well over twice the size of gross domestic product, has also raised concerns that the policy could further ruin Japan's fiscal health.
Sunday's election win is also expected to give the ruling bloc a new impetus to pursue the prime minister's long-term ambition of revising the country's postwar pacifist Constitution.
According to recent polls, a majority of the Japanese people still oppose such dangerous moves, which could cause further division and chaos in the country, and which would trigger further concerns among Japan's neighbors over the country's remilitarization.
Questions also remain as to the future direction of Japan's foreign policy, especially regarding its closest neighbors which were victims of Japan's aggressions before and during World War II.
In the past five years, Abe's administration has refused to truly reflect on Japan's wartime aggression, while some of his cabinet officials visited the notorious, war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo despite strong opposition. That has cost Japan's relationship with its close neighbor China greatly.
In addition, Japan's meddling in matters pertaining to the South China Sea, and ongoing wrongdoings regarding China's Diaoyu Islands and the "comfort women" issue, has done little to repair the damaged ties and promote a congenial regional environment.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Japan, and the next marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship.
As Japan has signaled its willingness to improve its relationship with China on a number of occasions recently, it is hoped that Japan could take this opportunity to keep its words and meet China halfway in improving bilateral relations through concrete actions.
Japan's ties with China have not always been strained. A healthier relationship between the world's two economic powers could not only benefit themselves but also the rest of the world. Now it's up to Japan to make the right call