News / Asia

Ruling Coalition Wins Control of Japan's Legislature

Japan's Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shinzo Abe (C) makes an appearance before the media at a news conference following a victory in the upper house elections by his ruling coalition, at the LDP headquarters
Japan's Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shinzo Abe (C) makes an appearance before the media at a news conference following a victory in the upper house elections by his ruling coalition, at the LDP headquarters
Daniel Schearf
The ruling coalition of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won control of both houses of parliament, ending years of political deadlock.

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, won 76 of the 121 contested seats in the upper house.  That gives Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition 135 of the 242 seats in the upper chamber.

It is the first time in six years the LDP has a comfortable majority over both houses, raising hopes Abe has the political backing to reform the ailing economy.

Speaking at his party headquarters, Prime Minister Abe warned they would face a backlash if party politicians retreated from reform.  

He says they must further speed up the pace of their policies.  If they return to the old LDP, that would ignore public opinion or would look to run away from reforms, he says, then they will lose the public's support.

The LDP lost control of Japan's parliament in a 2007 election defeat when Abe was last prime minister.  He returned as leader last December after an election victory in the lower house.  

Since then, he won praise for the fiscal stimulus policy known as “Abenomics" that lowers interest rates, and increases money supply and government spending.  The policy also includes structural reforms, such as deregulation of markets and breaking up monopolies.  

But Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, says taking on some big businesses who back the LDP will be more difficult to implement.

“The problem is that those vested interests are very well represented in Mr. Abe's own LDP party," he said. "And, now that the pressure is off, they won big, the chances are they are going to become a bit more complacent about reform.  And, they are more likely to defend the vested interests that put them into office.  And so, I think one of the big challenges Abe faces is maintaining discipline within the ranks of his own party.”

Many in Japan are also concerned that Abe will push a nationalist agenda, perhaps at the expense of focusing on the economy.

The prime minister is emphasizing the need to protect island territory Japan disputes with China and South Korea.  The calls for protecting territorial claims have raised tensions between Japan and its neighbors and worries it could lead to conflict.

Kingston says one reason Abe lost public support from 2006 was his emphasis on nationalist ideology.  Unfortunately, he says, although Abe now has the political freedom to try to tone down regional tensions, the Japanese leader appears to be holding firm.

“In fact, after his election victory he is saying, you know, that Japan needs to be a country that protects its territory.  So, [it]does not sound like he is offering the 'olive branch' there.  And, I think that this is worrying, not only to people in the region, I also think Washington is very concerned that Abe may be a tad too nationalistic and a little bit too provocative,” he said.

More controversially, Abe has made numerous comments playing-down Japan's World War II aggression and atrocities.

His government is also considering the idea of re-writing Japan's pacifist constitution, raising further hackles from neighbors who suffered during the war.

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Comment Sorting
by: Pie from: Japan
July 23, 2013 8:32 AM
What a shameless opinion this is! Japan could successfully recover from the destruction after WWII and became a member of developed countries again quickly. Compared to Japan's revitalization, S. Korea and China were still poor because of their political failures at that time, so Japan kindly aided a lot of money for their people without any returns. After their recovery, however, they only learned how to accuse Japan and how to squeeze money from Japan. So, S. Korea and China just provoke and say "Give more money!" Japan is neither a cash-dispenser nor a welfare for them, any more.

by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
July 23, 2013 4:04 AM
As a US' security gard in Asia,Japan has to represent the sake of his boss.Now,America is returning to Asia-Parcific.Becauce of the spending-cut, American money is so limited that Japan was asked to pay the bill of the conspiracy.As it stands,Japan has raised their military spending since this year, No doubt,Japan will pay more In the following couple years.It's easy way for Abe to make money that Obama's government and Abe's government work together to spur Japanese nationalism. Abe has won control of both houses of parliament,it is in sign of that USA has given de facto recognition to Abe. I don’t think Washington concerned that Abe may be too nationalistic and a little bit too provocative.but it is not fair trade for Japan,as a watch dog,not only work for his boss,but also pay the bill for his boss.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 22, 2013 5:46 PM
US should be glad Abe won decisive votes. Abe's conservative position at the territorial disputes is nothing but the same as what China and Korea have. It is important to express clearly what shoul be expressed especially in deplomatic stages. Ambiguity helps no one understand opposition's standpoints. This ambiguity of Japanese politicians has been condemned especialyy by US. At his point, Abe's claims are clear to everybody.

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