July 22 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a victory Monday as his Liberal Democratic Party took a clear majority of seats in Japan's upper-chamber House of Councillors.
Despite the victory, the party fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to keep a major campaign pledge to amend the Japanese Constitution to clarify its Self-Defense Forces status in Article 9 of its supreme law. Abe said while the party stance has not changed, it's willing to be "flexible."
The vote positions Abe to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister. The Liberal Democratic Party captured 71 seats in Sunday's election and, with its junior partner Komeito, controls 141 seats.
The opposing Constitutional Democratic Party won 53 seats and supporters seized a combined 104 seats.
"Although we have provided a basis for debate, which we believe is the best but we want to have flexible discussions without sticking to our proposal," Abe said, dismissing the party's falling short of a two-thirds majority.
"Many said it would be extremely difficult to gain a majority when advocating tax hikes, but we have the public's understanding. This upper house election was not about winning two-thirds of the seats, it was about maintaining stability. We achieved that goal."
Voter turnout for the House of Councillor's election was well below its 2016 election tally. Japan's Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said 49 percent of eligible voters participated, compared to 55 percent in 2016. Sunday marked the first time since 1995 that fewer than 50 percent voted in an upper house election.