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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs