Developing

Japan Election: Shinzo Abe Returns To Power

Japan has made a political lurch to the right as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a landslide victory in a general election.

Early results suggest the conservative-leaning LDP, led by Shinzo Abe, won 293 out of the 480 seats in the country's lower house.

The result means Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party (DJP) have been ousted after just three years in power.

Mr Abe, 58 - who has already served as Prime Minister for a year between 2006 and 2007 - is seen as having a hawkish foreign policy and a radical economic agenda.

He characterised the win as more of a protest vote against the DPJ than a strong endorsement of his party.

"I think the results do not mean we have regained the public's trust 100%. Rather, they reflect 'no votes' to the DPJ's politics that stalled everything the past three years," he said.

"Now we are facing the test of how we can live up to the public's expectations, and we have to answer that question."

The win by his LDP Party is widely expected to produce a government with a hardline stance to tackle the ongoing territorial dispute with China.

Mr Abe has said he wants Japan to play a bigger role in global security. He has pledged to change the country's pacifist constitution signed after World War Two.

A new right-leaning government combined with changes to the constitution and growing nationalist movement within Japan could significantly increase tensions in East Asia.

"We must strengthen our alliance with the US and also improve relations with China, with a strong determination that is no change in the fact the Senkaku islands are our territory," Mr Abe said after the victory.

China and Japan, who have a historically hostile relationship, both claim a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Beijing calls them the Diaoyu Islands and Tokyo refers to them as the Senkaku Islands.

China's claim had been dormant until the Japanese Government bought the islands from an individual who owned them earlier this year.

Last week, Japan scrambled fighter jets to the skies above the islands after a Chinese surveillance plane was spotted in air-space deemed by Tokyo to be Japanese.

Fixing Japan's economy will be the biggest domestic challenge for the incoming government. Mr Abe's policy is for 'unlimited' monetary easing and big spending on public projects.

Japan could be about to enter its fourth recession since 2000 and has a public debt twice the size of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some of Japan's most famous brands like Sony and Sharp are struggling in the face of competition from rivals in China and South Korea. Their woes are compounded by a strong yen, which has forced the price of their products in foreign markets up considerably.

Mr Abe's party also has a pro-nuclear energy policy despite last year's disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station.