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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid