News / Asia

Japan Retains Prime Minister Amid Changing Political Landscape

Four of the candidates for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party join hands for a photograph, Sept. 19, 2012. From left to right: Yoshimasa Hayashi, Nobuteru Ishihara, Shigeru Ishiba and former prime minister Shinzo Abe. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Four of the candidates for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party join hands for a photograph, Sept. 19, 2012. From left to right: Yoshimasa Hayashi, Nobuteru Ishihara, Shigeru Ishiba and former prime minister Shinzo Abe. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Japan's prime minister on Friday coasted to re-election in his party's presidential election. That means he will remain the country's leader until the next general parliamentary election. The Japanese political landscape is shifting.

In a country that has seen six prime ministers since 2006, the incumbent in office for just over one year has received an extension.

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) official Minoru Yanagida announces prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has soundly defeated three challengers to remain as party president.

Noda says he has nothing to smile about and pledges to put smiles back on the faces of Japan's children.

Noda, who easily defeated three challengers, tells fellow party lawmakers that the strong leadership of the DPJ can bring about a recovery from the disasters that befell Japan 18 months ago.

The March 11, 2011 earthquake triggered a lethal tsunami that swamped much of the northeastern coast, including a nuclear power plant.

Noda's biggest challenge to keep his job running the world's third largest economy will come after he calls a general election, which could occur within months.

That will pit the prime minister and the DPJ against the party which governed Japan for most of the post-World War Two era.

The Liberal Democratic Party (which is conservative, despite its name) will choose its contender for prime minister September 26.

Among the candidates are former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who abruptly resigned just three days into a new parliamentary session in 2007, citing health problems and stress.

Abe says he wants a second chance at the helm, asserting that compared to the other candidates he has long leadership experience.

To become prime minister again Abe will have to fend off four other LDP contenders and then help the party capture enough seats in the parliamentary election to form a government.

It is no longer, however, a two-party contest.

A new third party, started by the 43-year-old mayor of Osaka (the country's third largest city), Toru Hashimoto, has almost overnight upended the political landscape.

The former lawyer-turned-TV talk show celebrity wants less intervention by central government in local affairs, more free-market competition and a strengthening of Japan's military, which is restrained by the country's pacifist constitution.

Some polls show his Japan Restoration Party more popular than both the ruling DPJ and opposition LDP and in its first election could gain enough seats to determine which other party governs Japan.

Former foreign ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi says Hashimoto's flamboyant appeal and gift of the soundbite might not easily translate into a lot of his followers winning seats in parliament.

“He is more TV savvy than all other politicians. That much is for certain," he said. "But when it comes to his party members they are vastly unknown so rather than relying on unknown stock such as those, people may shift their ideas to rely more upon ‘knowns’ like the old guards of the LDP.”

All three parties share one key policy position. They back a hawkish line regarding the maritime territorial disputes with Japan's neighbors.

Analyst Taniguchi says the parties are responding to growing public concern.

“The sense of weakness has filtered into the minds of a lot of people in Japan. There has been an awareness that looking at the weakening Japan they sense that countries like China, South Korea and Russia are taking advantage of that newly realized weakness on the part of Japan,” he added.

The political establishment also finds itself facing unprecedented anti-nuclear sentiment in wake of last year's reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. That has prompted regular demonstrations with sizable numbers of protestors on the streets of Tokyo for the first time in decades.

The LDP and DPJ politicians will also be challenged about their failure to reverse Japan's long economic malaise, complicated by how to adequately take care of a rapidly aging population in a country of 125 million people.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More