Abe clashes with Koike in TV debate ahead of Japan election
Video provided by AFP

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed for a stronger military, appears poised to win a landslide victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, in large measure because of heightened fears in recent months about North Korea. 

If the polls are correct, the results would be a remarkable turnaround for the prime minister, who in recent months faced sinking popularity due to a corruption scandal in his Cabinet and seemed vulnerable to the rise of a charismatic political opponent, the current governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike.

A survey released Monday by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) likely to win up to 303 of the 465 seats in the lower house of parliament, while its coalition partner, the Komeito, is expected to take more than 30 seats.

Those figures would allow Abe to push forward an agenda that could include changing Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow for a more robust military.

North Korea helped set the stage for Abe’s political rebound. The isolated country launched a pair of ballistic missiles over Japan in August and September, which brought some support back to the hawkish Abe. He has talked tough against North Korea and pushed for a strong national defense.

On Sept. 28, two weeks after North Korea fired its second missile over Japan, Abe dissolved parliament and called for a snap election. Under Japan’s parliamentary system, an election was not required until 2018, but Abe saw a chance to strike while his poll numbers were on the rise and his opposition remained weak and in disarray.

“We must not give in to the threat of North Korea,” he said during his announcement. “I hope to gain the confidence of the…