News / Asia

Japan PM Heads for Election Victory Amid Policy Concerns

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Friday, March 15, 2013.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Friday, March 15, 2013.
Reuters
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 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a humiliating defeat in a 2007 upper house election.

The ensuing parliamentary deadlock allowed the opposition to block legislation and led to Abe's resignation two months later. That “twisted parliament” has hampered policies for most of the six years since and led to a string of revolving-door leaders.

“I want to see a stable government. That's the Liberal Democratic Party,” said  76-year-old Hiroshi Miyamoto, after casting his ballot for Abe's pro-business, conservative party in the western Tokyo suburb of Hachioji.

Abe, 58, who returned to power after a big win in December's lower house poll for his LDP and coalition partner New Komeito, 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.

Critics also worry Abe will 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 defense 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.

“I have the impression that Prime Minister Abe wants to revise the constitution, though I don't think it will be easy,” said apparel firm employee Etsuko Yamada, 35, who voted for the opposition Japanese Communist Party.

“I want him to show Japan's presence through diplomacy with strong negotiating power, not though military power by spending money to rearm.”

Yasukuni shrine test

Abe has declined to say he whether as premier he will visit Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, where Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals are also honored. A visit on the August 15 anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II would spark outrage in the region.

A Reuters poll showed Japanese firms generally want the LDP to win the election but worry that a landslide victory will allow Abe to prioritize nationalist policies over the economy, as critics say he did during his troubled 2006-2007 term.

Voting began at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT) and closes at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT), when media will project the outcome based on exit polls. Final results will be known late on Sunday or early on Monday.

Media forecasts show the LDP and New Komeito are on track to win more than 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in Sunday's poll for the 242-seat upper house.

With the coalition's uncontested 59 seats, that would hand it a hefty majority, solidifying Abe's grip on power and raising the chances of a long-term Japanese leader for the first time since the reformist Koizumi's rare five-year term ended in 2006.

Forecasts also show the LDP has a shot at winning an upper house majority in its own right for the first time since 1989, although analysts and politicians say it is unlikely to dump its coalition partner, on which it relies to help get votes.

But the LDP and two smaller parties that back Abe's drive to revise Japan's pacifist constitution to legitimize the military looked likely to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to take revisions of the charter to a public referendum. Those parties already have two-thirds of the lower house seats.

Media also forecast that the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which surged to power in 2009 to end more than half a century of almost non-stop LDP rule only to be ousted last year, could suffer its biggest drubbing since its founding in 1998. That would raise concerns about prospects for a competitive two-party democracy.

“I don't want the LDP to derail and do whatever it wants, just because it is popular,” said Hideo Houri, a 61-year-old civil servant who voted for the Democrats.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs