The result was at odds with expectations and initial exit polls that suggested the PLD would have to rely on its smaller coalition party for a majority. Kishida, a soft-spoken ex-banker who has struggled to shed an image that lacks charisma, is also likely to be emboldened with victory.
The vote was a test for Kishida, who called the elections shortly after taking office, and for the powerful party, which has been plagued by perceptions that it mishandled the coronavirus pandemic.
In the end, the PLD claimed 261 seats compared to the 276 it had before the elections.
“The overall trend is in favor of stability. The LDP overcame the hurdles it had to do,” said Tobias Harris, principal investigator at the Center for American Progress.
“We will see a lot of stimulus,” he said.
Poorer performance would have raised expectations that Kishida could follow his predecessor Yoshihide Suga to become another prime minister in the short term.
The party took some notable blows, including the loss of its secretary general, Akira Amari, in his one-seat district. Amari, a key Kishida supporter, intended to resign from his party in the party, the media said.
The PLD and its minor coalition partner, Komeito, won 293 seats, more than the 261 required for a “stable absolute majority” that gives the coalition command of parliamentary committees, making it easier to pass bills.
Kishida said the administration would try to compile an additional budget this year, in what would be a tight schedule.
“I hope that the parliament will pass an additional budget this year,” he told reporters.
This would involve funding measures to support people affected by the pandemic, such as those who lost their jobs and students struggling to pay tuition.
A big winner was the conservative Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party, which is projected to triple its seats and overtake Komeito as the third-largest force in the lower house, after the opposition Japan Democratic Constitutional Party.
The emergence of the Osaka party as a national force may complicate Kishida’s promise to roll back neoliberal economic policies.
The Innovation Party is “really taking the Osaka region by storm. They have emerged as a major conservative bloc,” said Yoichiro Sato, professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. “They are going to block Kishida’s new capitalist idea of narrowing the income gap between rich and poor.”
One of the most notable defeats of the PLD was that of a former economy minister and leader of one of the party’s factions, Nobuteru Ishihara, who lost to an opposition candidate in a western district of Tokyo.
The generally divided opposition was united, with a single party, including the widely rejected Japanese Communist Party, facing the coalition in most districts.
Some voters, such as Yoshihiko Suzuki, who voted for the leading opposition candidate in his district and the Communists in proportional representation, hoped the poll could teach the PLD a lesson.
Suzuki, 68, retired, said the PLD’s years in power made it complacent and arrogant, underscored by a series of money scandals and cronyism.
“I hope this election is a wake-up call for them,” he said. “If it does, the PLD will become a better party, considering how many talented legislators it has.”