Official campaigning for Japan’s general election kicked off Tuesday with the main opposition party leading in voter support. But the crowded race is likely to result in a coalition government plagued again by gridlock and policy stagnation. A record number of parties—12 in total—are expected to register more than 1,400 candidates to compete for the 480 seats in the lower house. The leaders of the two main parties—Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and main opposition leader Shinzo Abe—both hit the campaign trail starting in Fukushima prefecture, highlighting the region’s significance in the wake of the March 2011 tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.
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?
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament Friday, paving the way for elections in which his ruling party will likely give way to a weak coalition government divided over how to solve the nation’s myriad problems. Elections are set for Dec. 16. If Noda’s center-left party loses, the economically sputtering country will get its seventh prime minister in six and a half years.
Two minor parties led by local Japanese politicians—who have stirred controversy with hawkish views on matters ranging from relations with China to Japan’s wartime past—formally merged Saturday as campaigning for the Dec. 16 national election ground into gear. With the most recent opinion poll showing the ruling Democratic Party of Japan trailing the opposition Liberal Democratic Party but narrowing the gap, the former governor of Tokyo and the mayor of Osaka jointly presented what they said will be an alternative force in Japanese politics at a news conference. But while Shintaro Ishihara, the former governor of the capital, and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto both have local power bases and have garnered support in polls in recent months, a survey conducted Thursday and Friday by Japanese daily newspaper Asahi showed both minor parties still trailing the incumbent DPJ and opposition LDP by a long way. More than half of those polled, however, said they supported no particular political party.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested Wednesday that he will dissolve the lower house of parliament Friday, triggering an election that is likely to oust Noda and his unpopular party from power. The government said the election will be held Dec. 16. In a testy debate with opposition leader Shinzo Abe, Noda said he would go ahead with the move in exchange for cooperation on a bill to shrink the size of parliament. Officials from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) quickly said they would agree to the deal.