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
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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs