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Japan ruling coalition set to win election marred by Shinzo Abe killing

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TOKYO — Japan’s ruling coalition was projected to keep its majority in the upper house of parliament on Sunday, two days after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a dominant politician and power broker.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which Abe was a senior figure, and its junior coalition partner Komeito were on track to win between 69 and 83 of the 125 seats contested in Sunday’s vote, according to an exit poll by public broadcaster NHK.

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Official results are expected on Monday.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving modern leader, was gunned down on Friday during a speech in support of a local candidate in the western city of Nara, a killing the political establishment condemned as an attack on democracy itself.

Analysts had predicted Abe’s assassination would boost the LDP, led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege.

The party was projected to win 59 to 69 of the upper house seats contested, according the exit poll, up from the 55 it held previously.

Elections for parliament’s less powerful upper house are typically seen as a referendum on the sitting government. Change of government was not at stake, as that is determined by the lower house.

A strong showing at the polls could help Kishida consolidate his rule, giving the former banker from Hiroshima a chance to carry out his goal of boosting military spending.

It might allow him to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, a dream Abe never achieved.

The exit polls show parties open to revising the pacifist constitution were projected to maintain their two-thirds majority in the upper house. Most voters favor greater military strength, opinion polls show.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies in Tokyo and Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara; Additional reporting by Kevin Buckland, Yoshifumi Takemoto Kiyoshi Takenaka, Kantaro Komiya and Mariko Katsumura in Tokyo, and Tim Kelly in Nara; Editing by William Mallard, Bradley Perrett and Edmund Klamann)

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