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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs