News / Asia

Conservative LDP Expected to Win Big in Japan

Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a speech during a campaign for the December 16 lower house election in Ageo, north of Tokyo, December 11, 2012.
Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a speech during a campaign for the December 16 lower house election in Ageo, north of Tokyo, December 11, 2012.
Japan's lower house election this coming Sunday finds the incumbent prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, fighting for his political life and, quite possibility, the survival of his own party.

Noda's support, according to the latest NHK opinion poll, has dropped to a record low 20 percent. And the Democratic Party of Japan he leads is widely forecast to get trounced in the December 16 parliament polling.

Until the DPJ victory in 2009, the Liberal Democratic Party, which despite its name is conservative, had led Japan for nearly all of the time since its formation in 1955.

Surveys predict the LDP, led by former prime minister Shinzo Abe, will win more than 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house, which is more powerful than the upper house for which elections are expected next July.

Japan has seen five heads of government since Abe, who is now 58, was last in office in 2007.

"We have a pretty good idea who is going to win," said Tokyo Eurasia Group counselor Jun Okumura. "I'm specifically talking about the Liberal Democratic Party under Shinzo Abe. It's safe to say the Liberal Democratic Party has, overall, shifted somewhat to the right, since the last election."

Shift to right

The LDP's movement farther to right came after its more moderate candidates in metropolitan districts were defeated in previous elections, gradually giving more power within the party to provincial conservatives.

The LDP's current election platform reflects that shift, including bolstering the size and power of the Self-Defense Forces.

Abe also favors a constitutional revision to the pacifist Article Nine, which prohibits Japan from rearming or participating in collective self-defense.

Other nationalistic elements in the platform are raising significant concern outside the country. They call for Japan to increase its effective control of islands also claimed by China and to re-examine historical issues, such as the so-called "comfort women," who were taken from colonial Korea and used as prostitutes by the Japan imperial forces during the Pacific War.

"If the new LDP government does implement this, this simply means more tension with China,” said former Japanese ambassador Kazuhiko Togo, director of the Institute for World Affairs at Kyoto Sangyo University. “If Japan does it, particularly in relationship to comfort women, in the way it is described in the platform, not only it will spoil completely our relations with [South] Korea, it will be a big blow to the alliance relationship."

US diplomacy

The United States maintains military alliances with both Japan and South Korea and has tens of thousands of uniformed personnel stationed in the countries to help provide for their defense.

In recent years, the Pentagon has been attempting to bring both of its key allies in Northeast Asia closer together as their neighbor China becomes a global power. But efforts to encourage direct military ties between Tokyo and Seoul have foundered because of the lingering historical issues between the two capitals.

Japan’s parliament gridlock that has accomplished little of significance for years has led to public apathy, if not disgust, for the country’s traditional, multi-generational politicians. That has led to a sudden popularity of former governors and mayors as major national political figures in this election.

Wooing rural constituencies

For decades, the LDP was known for its massive funding of public works projects of dubious value and agricultural protectionism to woo rural constituencies.

"It is not a coincidence that we look to these administrator-politicians for unsullied leadership, from people who actually get things done," said Okumura, a 30-year veteran of Japan's Trade Ministry.

Okumura predicts that regardless of the outcome, neither of the two biggest parties, the LDP or the DPJ, will receive enough votes to allow any sweeping policy accomplishments by the next government.

"Either one of them will have difficulties going forward winning more than, say, one third of the popular vote. That does not look like a serious mandate for the kind of reforms that we need," Okumura said.

Thus a third party could have an outsized influence if the LDP falls short of a two-thirds majority.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, October 25, 2012.Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, October 25, 2012.
x
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, October 25, 2012.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, October 25, 2012.
And a major conductor of that third force is the former Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, whose critics label him a xenophobe.

Ishihara is, indeed, well known for his long-standing verbal attacks on foreign countries and foreigners, especially those from China.

Ishihara hopes his recently formed Japan Restoration Party will gain enough seats to hold the balance of power, possibly even resulting in him being asked to form the government.

Nationalistic trend

Analysts say Wednesday's provocative space launch by North Korea, which flew over Okinawa, could give additional support to nationalistic candidates.

Another worrying incident for Japanese voters that could compel some of the undecideds to choose nationalist candidates is Thursday's unprecedented flight by a Chinese maritime surveillance plane over a group of tiny islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

A Kyodo News survey shows the JRP, founded by populist Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, winning up to 50 seats. But the news agency's poll released Thursday shows 40 percent of voters still undecided

"You've got Ishihara rallying a kind of war mentality 'Let's get back to the glory of pre-1945 and let's challenge China in every possible way,'" said Princeton University professor Gilbert Rozman. "So I think the public opinion in Japan is confused, it's changed. And even though Abe would come to power with only about a third of the public supporting him, if Ishihara has another group, it's going to be difficult to manage that."

Rozman made the remark Tuesday in Seoul at a forum on China held by the Asian Institute for Policy Studies.

Another speaker at the forum, Keio University professor Nishino Junya, cautioned that until Abe secures a majority of seats in both houses of parliament, he cannot push his agenda and will manage cautiously.

Undermined by a pension scandal, Abe quit as prime minister five years ago, citing a chronic intestinal disorder which he says has since been effectively treated.

Abe, the grandson of a former prime minister, asserts  he has the stomach to handle the job, which will also include the unappetizing challenge of trying to fix a long deteriorating economy that many economists say is again in recession.

Japan, with a graying population, in recent years slipped behind China into third place in terms of gross domestic product and a debt-to-GDP ratio in excess of 200 percent.

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid