News / Asia

    Abe's Bloc Wins Big in Japan's Upper House Vote

    Japan's Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe smiles as he leaves an election campaign center at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, July 21, 2013, after an upper house election.
    Japan's Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe smiles as he leaves an election campaign center at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, July 21, 2013, after an upper house election.
    Reuters
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive election victory on Sunday, cementing his grip on power but raising the possibility he could lose interest in difficult economic reform and shift focus to his nationalist agenda instead.

    The win in the election for parliament's upper house gives the hawkish Abe a stronger mandate for his "Abenomics" recipe to revive the economy and sets the stage for the first stable government since popular Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006.

    But it also raises concern about him keeping his victorious party in line.

    "The outcome of this election shows that the public wants politics that can make decisions and [a government] that can push forward policies," Abe told NHK public television.

    The win spells a personal political redemption for Abe, who led his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a humiliating defeat in a 2007 upper house poll in his first term as premier.

    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.

    Abe, 58, who returned to power after a big win in December's lower house poll for his LDP and coalition partner New Komeito, reiterated that he would remain focused on fixing the economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and a growth strategy including structural reforms.

    "We've argued that our economic policies aren't mistaken, and the public gave us their support. People now want to feel the benefits. The economy indeed is improving," Abe said.

    "We'd like to do our best to generate a positive cycle - in which job conditions improve and wages rise, boosting personal consumption and prompt companies to invest more -  as soon as possible."

    But concerns have already surfaced that the size of the LDP-led bloc's victory will weaken Abe's resolve for economic reform in the face of opposition to deregulation from LDP lawmakers with close ties to industries that would suffer from change.

    "So far, Abe's opponents were opposition parties. But from now on, he might find himself having to fight with people within his own party," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University in Tokyo.

    "It is too early to tell if he can maintain his leadership as he did so far."

    Critics also worry Abe will shift focus to the conservative agenda that has long been central to his ideology, 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.

    "One big question is how PM Abe wants to use this power he now has. Will he continue to focus on an economic agenda, or will be try to use the advantage on his pet projects like changing the constitution," said Takuji Okubo, chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors in Tokyo.

    "Some people think, now that Abe has this very firm majority, both upper house and lower house, he might actually divert away from an economic agenda and spend his political capital on political issues," Okubo added.

    Opposition drubbing

    Abe said more debate was needed to win public understanding on constitutional reform. "I would like to deepen proper debate in a calm and stable situation," he said.

    Abe has declined to say 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 Aug. 15 anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II would spark outrage in the region.

    A Reuters poll showed Japanese firms generally wanted the LDP to win the election but they worry a landslide victory would allow Abe to prioritize nationalist policies over the economy, as critics say he did during his troubled 2006-2007 term.

    Media projections showed the LDP and New Komeito would win more than 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the 242-seat upper house. With the coalition's uncontested 59 seats, that hands 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.

    No election for either house of parliament need be held until 2016.

    Exit polls showed, however, that the LDP fell short of winning an upper house majority in its own right for the first time since 1989, although it could put in a better performance than in 2001, when the party was led by the popular Koizumi.

    The LDP and two smaller parties that back Abe's drive to revise Japan's pacifist constitution to legitimize the military looked to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to take revisions of the charter to a public referendum, the exit polls showed. Those parties have two-thirds of the lower house seats.

    Despite the LDP-led bloc's win, the party's pro-nuclear power stance is unpopular, and plans to restart reactors that have been off-line since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster could run into trouble.

    Abe will also have to decide whether to go ahead with an increase in a 5 percent sales tax to 8 percent next April, the first stage in a planned doubling of the levy to rein in Japan's massive public debt.

    Finance Minister Taro Aso told a G20 meeting in Moscow on Saturday the tax increase would be implemented but Abe said he wanted to decide later in the year whether to go ahead.

    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, suffered its biggest drubbing since its founding in 1998. Exits polls showed the party winning 21 or fewer seats.

    "Given that this government is getting a big mandate out of what seems to be a low turnout, it's not like there's a popular enthusiasm strongly behind Abe," said Kochi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University.

    "It's sort of an empty victory that's exaggerated both by the electoral system and because of the low turnout, so we can talk about the crisis of Japanese democracy. It's unhealthy for any parliamentary democracy not to have opposition that would keep the government in check."

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    July 22, 2013 6:09 AM
    I think there is no need to worry about LDP's decisive win. LDP consists of various factions so that Abe could not become authoritarian. That is also why LDP could have lead parliament for a long time and Japanese democracy has been maintained.

    I think it is misleading to call Abe halkish who is intending to restore Japan to old millitary regime. What he wants to do is to ensure Japanese self-defence forces joinning the right of collective self-defence. At the Gulf war, Japan was condemned not to join the right and got no thanks from relevant countries eventhough it offered huge money. Japan did not join the right not because it was incooperative but because Japanese present constitution prohibits self-defence forces to join the right. Abe said on TV interview last night he wants to lift that restriction like Germany.


    by: Pie from: Japan
    July 21, 2013 10:54 PM
    This is a typical opinion of some people living in Tokyo, so-called the left-wing, anti-authorities. Actually, however, ordinary Japanese people don't always disagree with the action the Japanese PM would worship to the Yasukuni Shrine for the deceased soldiers in WWII or other wars. I think the PM must go to Yasukuni for the souls of the deceased every year, just like other leaders, such as the President of the US. Many Japanese think China and S. Korea accuse about it just for squeezing money from Japan.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.