TOKYO - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc looks set for a handsome upper house election win on Sunday, cementing his grip on power and setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006.
The victory would give the hawkish leader a stronger mandate for his recipe to revive the economy and spell his personal political redemption after he led his party to a defeat in a 2007 upper house election.
That poll allowed the opposition to block legislation and led to Abe's resignation two months later.
After a string of revolving-door leaders, Abe, 58, returned to power following a big win in December's lower house poll for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and coalition partner the New Komeito.
He has said he will remain focused on fixing the economy with his "Abenomics" mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and structural reforms.
But some worry that Abe's resolve for economic reform could weaken in the face of a resurgent LDP. A landslide victory could bolster opposition to regulatory reform from LDP lawmakers with close ties to industries that would suffer from change.
Abe could also shift his focus to the conservative agenda that has long been close to his heart, and concentrate on revising the post-war pacifist constitution and recasting Tokyo's wartime history with a less apologetic tone.
Such a shift -- along with moves to strengthen Japan's defence posture -- would further fray ties with China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's past militarism run deep. Tokyo is already engaged in tense territorial rows with Beijing and Seoul over tiny, uninhabited islands.