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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition cruised to a big election win on Sunday, but feeble turnout could weaken his claim of a mandate for policies including reflationary steps to revive the economy.
Most media exit polls showed Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, the Komeito party, winning more than 317 seats in the 475-member lower house, enough to maintain its "super-majority" that smoothes parliamentary business.
But many voters, doubtful of both the premier's "Abenomics" strategy to end deflation and generate growth and the opposition's ability to do any better, stayed at home, putting turnout on track for a record low, interim figures showed.
Turnout had already hit a post-war low of 59.3 percent in the 2012 poll that returned Abe to power for a rare second term on pledges to reboot an economy plagued by deflation and an aging, shrinking population.
Abe called the election early to strengthen his grip on power before tackling unpopular policies such as restarting nuclear reactors taken off-line after the 2011 Fukushima disaster and a security policy shift away from post-war pacifism.
The LDP-led coalition victory could ease Abe's path to re-election in a party leadership race next September, boosting the likelihood, though by no means guaranteeing, he stays in power through 2018 and becomes one of Japan's rare long-term leaders.