The old joke about Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is that it was neither liberal, democratic, nor even a proper party. Cobbled together from a ragbag of anti-socialist factions in the 1950s, the LDP nevertheless held together for over half a century before coming unstitched in 2009. Now, history seems to be repeating itself, as 14 different political parties have mobilised since Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, called a general election for December 16th. As Mr Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) weakens, most of the newer parties are on the right, united in their desire to revitalise Japan, a strategy reflected in some of their names: Sunrise, Restoration, Renaissance. The question for Japan’s voters is whether anything else unites them?
Just three weeks before the lower-house election, the party leaders are struggling to form what Japan’s media call a “third-pole” alternative to the DPJ and the LDP. With many voters wanting to punish the DPJ but not wanting to return to the LDP, opinion polls suggest the two main parties may win fewer than half the votes between them. So the rest have plenty of scope to become influential if they can ally with each other, or with one of the mainstream parties.
That has created a frenetic speed-dating game in which they try to hook up with the most dazzling partner, whatever the potential policy clashes. Just days after Shintaro Ishihara, an anti-China warhorse, resigned as Tokyo’s governor and formed the right-wing Sunrise Party, he joined with the Japan Restoration Party (JRP) of Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, and became the party’s president. It didn’t appear to matter that the two men had to fudge some policies to agree to the match. Mr Hashimoto dropped the JRP’s insistence that Japan phase out nuclear power by the 2030s, and Mr Ishihara has appeared to soften his opposition to joining a free-trade deal championed by America, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Full Article: Japan’s elections: Pole dancers | The Economist.