Japan’s ruling coalition secured a resounding victory in upper house elections on Sunday, with some exit polls predicting that prime minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies would achieve the legislative firepower they need to rewrite the country’s pacifist constitution. According to the exit polls, Abe’s Liberal Democratic party (LDP) was on course to win 57 to 59 seats of the 121 seats that were contested. Its junior coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komeito, was expected to win 14 seats. Combined with other minor conservative parties, the coalition was within reach of the number of seats it needs in the upper house to set in motion plans to change the US-authored constitution for the first time since it was introduced in 1947.
The plan put forward by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition to reform the Lower House electoral system is only a partial step that shelves the fundamental overhaul needed to close the sharp disparity of votes across electoral districts, as proposed by a panel of experts advising the speaker of the chamber, for several more years. The bill to amend the Public Offices Election Law to cut 10 Lower House seats and redraw some electoral districts will likely clear the Diet during its current session on the strength of the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito alliance. But the administration and the coalition still need to explain why voters have to wait longer for the more fundamental reform.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, brushing aside suggestions that a low turnout tarnished his coalition’s election win, vowed on Monday to stick to his reflationary economic policies, tackle painful structural reforms and pursue his muscular security stance. But doubts persist as to whether Abe, who now has a shot to become a rare long-lasting leader in Japan, can engineer sustainable growth with his “Abenomics” recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and promises of deregulation. “We heard the voice of the people saying ‘Move forward with Abenomics’,” Abe told a news conference at his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters, adorned with giant posters of the premier and his campaign slogan “This is the only path”. … Many voters, doubtful of both the premier’s “Abenomics” strategy to end deflation and generate growth and the opposition’s ability to do any better, stayed at home.
Japan goes to the polls on Sunday after the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, called a snap election he hopes will give his Liberal Democratic party (LDP) a greater mandate for economic reforms. The election caught almost everyone by surprise, not least voters and the opposition parties. Surveys show that most people question the need to go to the polls again, just two years after Abe and the LDP were elected by a landslide. They have good reason to be skeptical. The LDP, along with its much smaller junior coalition partner, Komeito, now controls both houses of parliament, ending the legislative deadlock that frustrated previous administrations. After a decade that saw leaders come and go in quick succession, Abe has managed to close the revolving door to the prime minister’s office and secure some semblance of stability. That said, the resignations of two cabinet ministers in September were uncomfortable reminders of his first term as leader – for a year from autumn 2006 – when he was forced out following a string of scandals involving senior colleagues.
The Japanese Communist Party is gearing up for what could be its biggest election win in more than a decade with more of the same: cartoons, puns and breakdancing. The 92-year-old party has revived a rowdy bunch of animated mascots–the Proliferation Bureau–to spread the gospel ahead of Sunday’s lower house election. This year, armed with a bigger budget, they’re out to stop Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from letting the sales tax rise again, restarting nuclear reactors and revising the nation’s constitution. The Proliferation Bureau debuted during the 2013 upper house election after restrictions on Internet campaigning were lifted for the first time. The eight characters were meant to appeal to net-savvy youth who might otherwise associate Communism with bloody revolutions. “This time the theme is us against the Liberal Democratic Party,” Kazushi Tamura, deputy head of the publicity department, told JRT, referring to Mr. Abe’s ruling party. The party wasn’t sure the Proliferation Bureau would return after the last election, but positive feedback on social media made the difference, he said.
What starts with a tingle of excitement, is followed by a surge of activity, frantic yelling and empty promises, but is quickly spent, leaving you feeling just as empty and unfulfilled as before? Answer: a Japanese election. While it took some Americans well into the second term of President Barack Obama’s “change you can believe in” presidency to realize that voting may be a waste of time, decades of rule by an unchanging coven of bureaucrats and Liberal Democratic Party parliamentarians have given the Japanese more time to become accustomed to the impotence of their own democratic processes. Still, you would be hard-pressed to identify a more flaccid poll than the one that will reach a predictable climax on Sunday. Unleashed abruptly after some desultory denials-as-foreplay, the Nov. 21 dissolution of the Diet was so sudden that it will apparently disenfranchise the crews of long-distance Japanese fishing boats that had already left port when faxable ballots were made available. Of course, even if they had received them, how could the nation’s piscators know how to vote, out there on the empty sea with nary a candidate driving by in a sound truck screaming their name and party affiliation?
Just days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would call a snap election, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party sent a letter to Japan’s five major television networks asking for fair and impartial coverage of the coming campaign. Signed by a top aide to Mr. Abe and another party official, the letter made specific requests: balance in the number of appearances and total airtime given to candidates, for example, and in the political views offered through man-on-the-street interviews. Sent late last month, the letter was the latest example of the tense relationship between Mr. Abe’s conservative government and the Japanese media, particularly left-leaning newspapers and networks.
A ban on using the Internet in election campaigns has been lifted ahead of the Dec. 14 lower house election, following the upper house election held in summer last year. Each party is participating in the cybercampaign in their own way to attract the attention of voters. The Liberal Democratic Party has made a dedicated website. Linked with Twitter and Facebook accounts of its candidates, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the website is constantly sharing information from candidates on the campaign trail. On Tuesday, the website presented a photo of the prime minister as he visited the area affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to make a speech supporting another candidate. Komeito has made a website focusing on the party’s most important pledge — introducing a reduced consumption tax rate system for daily necessities and other items when the tax increase to 10 percent is put in place. Their site highlights the importance of the introduction, with an animation and charts. Page views had exceeded 60,000 as of Tuesday, according to the website, which sports the catchphrase “You can understand in one minute.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of Japan’s parliament Friday, forcing a snap election in an apparent bid to shore up support for his scandal-plagued government so that he can pursue his policy goals. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for most of the post-World War II era, may lose some seats but is likely to retain a solid majority with its coalition partner in the 480-seat lower house. The election, expected on Dec. 14, follows Abe’s decision to postpone a planned sales tax increase after figures released Monday showed the economy slipped into recession. He is portraying the election as a referendum on his economic revitalization policies, known as Abenomics, and the postponement of the tax hike ? from the current 8 percent to 10 percent ? that had been set for next October. “The battle is now starting,” he said. “We’ll make an all-out fight in this battle so that we all can come back here to resume our responsibility to make Japan a country that shines in the center of the world.”
A revised national referendum law that lowers the minimum voting age to 18 from the current 20 took effect Friday. The law, enacted by parliament a week ago, is seen as a crucial part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to amend the pacifist Constitution to enable Japan to play a greater security role. Changes to the Constitution can be initiated with the support of at least two-thirds of the lawmakers in both houses of parliament and must be endorsed by a majority of voters in a referendum.
Japanese politicians across the political spectrum jumped at the opportunity to use the Internet in campaigning for Sunday’s election, the first to be held after the lifting of a ban on using the Web in the run-up to a national vote. But while a media survey shows that the vast majority of candidates used the Net as a campaigning tool to garner votes from younger and tech-savvy voters, another poll indicates there is still a long way to go before all voters embrace the Internet as a primary source of information for deciding who they will support. Analysis of the media survey also shows that although the victorious Liberal Democratic Party boasted the ability to reach the largest number of people with its messages on social media, it ranked only fifth in terms of the quantity of tweets posted on microblogging site Twitter. Leading the way on planet Twitter was the Japanese Communist Party, arguably the most enthusiastic convert to the ways of Internet campaigning since the law changed. The survey by national broadcaster NHK showed that 91% of candidates for the upper house election used social media services such as Twitter and Facebook to post information about their campaign platforms, rally schedules, and videos of previous speeches and messages from supporters. According to analysis of the survey conducted with assistance from NTT Data, election tweets from candidates of all major political parties during the campaign period totaled 53,000, with almost 20% of those postings coming from the JCP.
Japanese voters handed a landslide victory to the governing Liberal Democrats in parliamentary elections on Sunday, strengthening the grip of a party that promises accelerated changes to Japan’s economy and a shift away from its postwar pacifism. By securing control of both houses of Parliament for up to three years, the win offers Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — an outspoken nationalist who promises to revitalize Japan’s deflationary economy and strengthen its military — the chance to be the most transformative leader in a decade. Although a lackluster turnout indicated that Mr. Abe might not have as much of a mandate as his supporters hoped, the margin of victory was large enough to suggest he has an opportunity to also bring stability to the country’s leadership after years of short-lived and ineffective prime ministers.
As the orange van cruises central Tokyo, Kan Suzuki, a politician from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), scours the street for voters. Leaning from the window, he blares out his name through the van’s loudspeakers, and a team of white-gloved ladies known as uguisu-jo, or warbler girls, echoes him, waving starchily at a lone pensioner. Then Mr Suzuki retreats inside, to his iPad. For the first time in Japan, the law now allows him to update his home page during an election campaign. For years the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in office until 2009 and again from late last year, resisted changing outdated laws banning digital campaigning. Its older politicians had not a clue about social media. Others feared negative smear campaigns or worried that a Barack Obama-inspired internet machine could hand victories to the more technically minded DPJ. Until this election campaign—for the upper house of the Diet, where half of the seats are up for grabs on July 21st—all online activity had to freeze just when candidates most wanted to reach voters.
Campaigning for the July 21 parliamentary election began across Japan on Thursday, with opinion polls forecasting major gains for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his economic revival plan. At stake in the election are half of the seats in the upper house of Parliament, where his main opponents, the Democratic Party, now have control. Mr. Abe’s conservative governing party, the Liberal Democrats, soundly defeated the Democrats in December in elections for the more powerful lower house of Parliament, and the polls so far suggest that they will repeat that feat in the upper house. If they succeed, Mr. Abe will be the first Japanese prime minister in years to break a rapid cycle of rise and fall for the country’s leaders. Control of both houses of Parliament would give Mr. Abe more freedom to push forward a doctrine that his party now proudly calls Abenomics, a cocktail of monetary stimulus, government spending and promised economic changes meant to jolt Japan out of its long deflationary slump.