Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe and Shigeru Ishiba acknowledge the applause from their fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on Sept. 20 after Abe won a third term as party president. (Satoru Semba)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe easily won a third term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sept. 20, but signs of a “revolt” were seen among the party rank and file.

Abe, 63, secured the votes of about 80 percent of LDP lawmakers to overwhelm Shigeru Ishiba, 61, a former secretary-general who was Abe’s only challenger in the race.

The prime minister had also put in a huge effort to attract party members and supporters at the local level because Ishiba bested him in that area in the LDP presidential election held six years ago.

Abe, however, only gained about 55 percent of all votes at the local level.

Those in the Abe camp expressed shock at the figure, partly because the local numbers are said to more closely reflect public opinion.

One LDP member also said the numbers do not bode well for the Abe-led party in the Upper House election scheduled for summer 2019.

An LDP executive described the outcome as “a revolt from the local regions.”

In 10 prefectures, Ishiba received more votes than the incumbent.

Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a rising star in the LDP, said he voted for Ishiba, as he had done in the previous election.

Five major LDP factions had expressed their support for Abe before the election, so there was little doubt that he would gain a huge majority among lawmakers.

A pre-election survey by The Asahi Shimbun found that about 80 percent of LDP lawmakers supported Abe while only about 50 Diet members said they backed Ishiba.

While 329 Diet members picked Abe, Ishiba gained the votes of 73 lawmakers, more than even those in the Ishiba camp expected.

Having secured wide support from LDP factions, Abe initially set a goal of winning at least 70 percent of votes among local party members and supporters to show that he had broad public support.

But once official campaigning started on Sept. 7, those aboard the Abe bandwagon toned down expectations about the local vote.

Akira Amari, a close ally to Abe, said they wanted to exceed the 55 percent of the total local vote that Ishiba garnered six years ago.

However, that seemed to be a low hurdle especially since Ishiba reached that figure while competing against four other candidates, including Abe.

This time around it was a two-man race, so Abe’s support at the local level of slightly over 55 percent would have to be considered disappointing.

Based on the distribution of local votes, Abe received 224 votes allocated to party members and supporters while Ishiba picked up 181 votes.

In total, Abe gained 553 votes while Ishiba ended up with 254.