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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's ruling coalition is projected to maintain power in an election, but his party was forecast to take a drubbing, a blow that could mean political instability in the world's third-biggest economy.
It was too close to call whether Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would maintain its majority in the lower house of parliament as a single party, according to exit polls by public broadcaster NHK late on Sunday, but the coalition with junior partner was forecast to maintain control.
The LDP-Komeito coalition was projected to win 239 to 288 seats in the lower house, more than the 233 needed for a majority, NHK said. The LDP was expected to win between 212 to 255 seats.
The vote was a test for Kishida, who called the election soon after taking the top post early this month, and for his Liberal Democratic Party, which has been battered by its perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already, Kishida has struggled to advance policies to help poorer people, while securing a big boost in military spending and taking a harder line on China.
The LDP is on the brink of losing its sole majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 2009, opinion polls show, although its coalition with junior partner Komeito was forecast to remain in control.
The biggest opposition group, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is expected to gain seats but not come near toppling Kishida's coalition.
Still, a big loss of LDP seats could lead to party infighting, returning Japan to an era of short-lived administrations that diminished its global stature, until Shinzo Abe helmed the country for a record eight years to September 2020.