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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

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