Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party lost one of two House of Councillors by-elections held Sunday, dealing a blow to the party and its leader Prime Minister Fumio Kishida with just a week until the general election.
The defeat in Shizuoka Prefecture was a red flag for Kishida, who took office less than a month ago promising to take stronger COVID-19 countermeasures and implement a "new capitalism" that puts the country on a growth track while redistributing wealth to the middle class.
Shinnosuke Yamazaki, a 40-year-old independent backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and another opposition party, won a close race against Yohei Wakabayashi, 49, of the LDP. The other race in the conservative stronghold of Yamaguchi Prefecture was won by the LDP's Tsuneo Kitamura, 66.
The by-elections for vacant seats in the upper chamber of parliament were the first national contests since Kishida replaced his unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, and closely watched as a bellwether for next Sunday's general election.
Media polls suggest the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, will retain their majority in the 465-member House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber.