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Media tips Japan's ruling coalition to retain power******
Japan's ruling coalition is on track to retain power but lose seats in parliament, media predictions said after polls closed in yesterday's general election, the first major test for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.。
In forecasts based on exit polls, public broadcaster NHK said the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito would win between 239-288 of the 465 seats in the lower house.。
TV Asahi said the coalition was expected to win 280 seats, down from its previous total of 305 – weakening the dominance of the LDP, which has held power almost continuously since the 1950s.。
Kishida, 64, became party leader a month ago after Yoshihide Suga resigned just a year into the job, partly due to public discontent over his response to the COVID-19 crisis.。
Cases have dropped precipitously since a record wave that pushed the Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors, but voters in the capital said the pandemic was a major factor in their decision.。
"The economy is suffering because of the coronavirus, so I compared the politicians' responses," said Chihiro Sato, 38, a housewife.。
But engineer Hiroyasu Onishi, 79, said he was more concerned by "the military threat from China."
Kishida has pledged to issue a fresh stimulus package to counter the impact of the pandemic on the world's third-largest economy.。
He has also outlined plans to tackle inequality heightened by the neo-liberal policies of Suga and his predecessor Shinzo Abe, saying he will distribute wealth more fairly under a so-called new capitalism, although the details remain vague.。
Japan's 106 million voters have "struggled to get excited about the new prime minister," said Stefan Angrick, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics.。
"Kishida will need to convince the public and younger members of his party that continuity does not mean status quo, but rather maintaining what has worked and improving on what hasn't."
Kishida had set a comfortable target of winning at least 233 lower-house seats, a simple majority, including LDP and Komeito lawmakers.。
The LDP previously boasted a commanding majority of 276 seats on its own. NHK predicted the party would hang on to between 212-253 seats yesterday, while TV Asahi said it'd win 243, still a simple majority without Komeito.。
Kishida has not enjoyed a political honeymoon, with approval ratings around 50 percent, the lowest in two decades for a new administration in Japan.。
Only five politicians have hung on to the prime minister's office for five years or longer since World War II, including Abe, who was in power from 2012 to 2020 after a previous one-year term.。
Turnout stood at 31.6 percent as of 6pm yesterday, higher than the 30.0 percent at the same time during the 2017 general election, when overall turnout reached 53 percent.。
Putin, Macron discuss Ukraine issue over phone******
MOSCOW, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, where the leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine and developments regarding long-term legal security guarantees for Russia.
"Serious concerns were expressed due to the quickly deteriorating situation along the contact line in Donbas," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Putin noted that provocations from Ukrainian militants caused the escalation.
"Attention was drawn to the modern weapons and ammunition being sent to Ukraine by NATO member countries, which is encouraging Kiev to pursue a military solution to the Donbas problem," the Kremlin said.
Kiev "continues to refuse to implement the Minsk agreements, as well as the agreements reached as part of the Normandy format," according to the statement.
Both presidents found it "expedient to step up the search for a diplomatic solution" between the foreign ministers and political advisors to the leaders of the Normandy format countries.