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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora