The first signs of a backlash against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have appeared since he dramatically changed the country’s defense policy earlier this month.
Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, lost a gubernatorial election in Shiga prefecture in what is perceived as a protest vote against the July 1 ending of the country’s ban on “collective self-defense,” reports Reuters.
The pacifist policy has defined postwar Japan, but Abe argued that the nation needs a new security policy in the current political climate, hinting at territorial disputes with China. In response, however, voter support for the 59-year-old Premier has already dropped below 50%, according to a recent public-opinion survey.
Abe is not up for re-election until 2016, but three other prefectures will elect governors later this year. Japan will also have several more polls next April.
The ballot also revealed divisions within the Japanese electorate regarding the East Asian nation's nuclear policy following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Many voters in Shiga prefecture are wary of the Prime Minister’s plans to restart nuclear reactors in neighboring Fukui prefecture. By contrast, Shiga’s new governor, Democratic Party member Taizo Mikazuki, called for Japan to reduce its reliance on nuclear power.