Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc scored a big win in Sunday's election, bolstering his chance of becoming the nation's longest-serving premier and re-energizing his push to revise the pacifist constitution.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-led (LDP) coalition won a combined 312 seats, keeping its two thirds "super majority" in the 465-member lower house, local media said.
A hefty win raises the likelihood that Abe, who took office in December 2012, will secure a third three-year term as LDP leader next September and go on to become Japan's longest-serving premier. It also means his "Abenomics" growth strategy centered on the hyper-easy monetary policy will likely continue.
Final official results from the election, which coincided with an approaching typhoon, are expected early on Monday. The U.S.-drafted constitution's Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. But Japanese governments have interpreted it to allow a military exclusively for self-defense.
Backers of Abe's proposal to clarify the military's ambiguous status say it would codify the status quo. Critics fear it would allow an expanded role overseas for the military. Abe said he would not stick to a target he had floated of making the changes by 2020. "First, I want to deepen debate and have as many people as possible agree," he told a TV broadcaster. "We should put priority on that."
The LDP's junior partner, the Komeito, is cautious about changing the constitution, drawn up after Japan's defeat in World War Two. Several opposition parties favour changes, but do not necessarily agree on details.