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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid