LDP wins one of two by-elections ahead of Lower House poll, reports say

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One week before the general election for the Lower House, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the ruling coalition received at least a partial boost Sunday night following a victory in one of the two Upper House by-elections, public broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo News agency reported immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m.

In Yamaguchi Prefecture, the LDP’s Tsuneo Kitamura, 66, also backed by Komeito, defeated JCP candidate Kiyo Kawai, 61, and Ryu Hezuma, 30, an independent, according to the reports.

But in Shizuoka, ruling party-backed former Gotemba mayor Yohei Wakabayashi, 49, was locked in a close race with Shinnosuke Yamazaki, 40, a former independent prefectural assemblyman who was supported by the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, Kyodo said. Yamazaki was slightly ahead of the favored LDP candidate, according to NHK. A third candidate, Chika Suzuki, 50, was backed by the Japanese Communist Party.

The ruling coalition hopes to score the twin victories, which may help the its chances in the Lower House election on Oct. 31.

While the CDP and the JCP are working to support unified candidates in the Lower House contest, the DPP refused to cooperate. For the Shizuoka by-election, the opposition parties thus rallied behind the two candidates, resulting in a split of the opposition vote.

The by-elections are seen as the first tests of public support for Kishida’s administration since it was inaugurated earlier this month. Losses in both elections could signal trouble for the ruling coalition in the larger Lower House election.

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