News / Asia

Election Win Could Allow Japan's Abe to Push Through Reforms

Japan's Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shinzo Abe (C) makes an appearance before the media at a news conference following a victory in the upper house elections by his ruling coalition, at the LDP headquarters
Japan's Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shinzo Abe (C) makes an appearance before the media at a news conference following a victory in the upper house elections by his ruling coalition, at the LDP headquarters
TEXT SIZE - +
This week's sweeping election victory by Japan's ruling coalition could give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a chance to implement some of the more politically difficult parts of his so far successful economic policy known as "Abenomics," analysts say.

Prime Minister Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito won control of both chambers of Japan's parliament in elections Sunday. It's the first time in three years the ruling bloc has taken control of both houses.

The conservative coalition could retain a parliamentary majority for the next three years, bringing on what would be a rare period of political stability in a country that has cycled through seven prime ministers in the past seven years.

The victory is seen by many as an endorsement of Mr. Abe's three-part plan to re-energize Japan's stagnant economy.

Encouraging early results for 'Abenomics'

The first two "arrows" of Abenomics - aggressive monetary easing and massive stimulus spending - have achieved encouraging initial results. Stock markets have surged, business confidence is improving, and Japan posted an annualized growth of 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

But the third and most politically tricky arrow of Abenomics - encouraging long-term growth through structural reforms - has yet to be fired, says Jeff Kingston, the Director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan.

"The first arrow in Abenomics, quantitative easing - you know, increasing the money supply - that doesn't hurt anybody. Spending lots of money on fiscal stimulus - the second arrow - doesn't hurt anybody," he tells VOA.

"But structural reforms are going to hurt certain sectors of the economy, and these people are going to dig their heels in. And their party is Abe's party. So there's going to be some interesting battles looming in the next few months," he said.

Tough decisions ahead

Among the looming issues for Mr. Abe is whether to go ahead with the tough agricultural reforms that could be necessary in order for Japan to join the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Heavily subsidized farmers, who make up an important constituency for Mr. Abe's LDP, are reluctant to open Japan's economy to foreign competition. They want assurances that the elimination of tariffs on imports would not destroy their livelihoods.

Mr. Abe must also decide whether to continue pushing for a controversial sales tax increase from 5 percent to 8 percent. The tax hike would help Japan deal with its soaring national debt, but has proven unpopular with many voters.

Following Sunday's election, Mr. Abe acknowledged these steps will not be easy. "Bold deregulation and structural reform, TPP negotiations, and raising consumption taxes, all these are difficult tasks," he said. "But I must make a decision for the future of Japan."

Election win could help advance reform agenda

But if ever there were a time to push through such wider structural reforms, it would be now, says Masamichi Adachi, a senior economist at J.P. Morgan in Tokyo.

"It definitely makes it easier for Prime Minister Abe to go through (with these tougher measures)," he says. "Because almost all important measures need to get approval from both the lower house and upper house."

However, Adachi tells VOA that it remains to be seen whether Mr. Abe will spend the political capital necessary to go ahead with sweeping reforms.

"The reform agenda is still difficult. Even though I say there's a high possibility Abe will go through with this agenda, this should be a very painful path for him and the country as a whole," he says.

VOA's Victor Beattie contributed to this report

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid