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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs