Brief comments on the July 2016 Upper House Election: The path is cleared for Japan’s Constitutional revision

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Hi Blog. As is tradition on Debito.org, here is a comment (this time brief) on the outcome of the July 10, 2016 election in Japan for the Upper House of Parliament.

The results of the election are here in Japanese (English here), and on the surface this is what they say to me:

PM Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its allies won handily. The LDP picked up six more seats (while its joined-at-the-hip party ally Koumeitou won an extra five, as did other LDP-simpatico parties), winning the near-supermajority in the Upper House that it was shooting for (i.e., only one seat away from the 2/3 supermajority of 162 seats).  The largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, lost eleven seats, and while other smaller opposition parties picked up a seat or three, that doesn’t offset the LDP’s net gain. In other words, Abe won his third election in a row solidly.

According to the electoral map on the Japanese page, the left side of Japan (north and west of Tokyo, that is) outside of big cities is essentially the LDP, the ruling party that has governed for most of Japan’s Postwar Era. The right side of Japan (north of Tokyo and up) is more mixed, but the closer you get to the Fukushima disaster areas the more likely they went for opposition or unaffiliated parties. Hokkaido (my home prefecture) went 2/3 opposition, as usual, but the biggest vote-getter was the LDP candidate.

Commentators have talked about the deception behind this election (that Abe kept the talk on economics instead of his pet project of reforming Japan’s American-written 1945 Constitution in ways that are neither Liberal nor Democratic), about how Japan’s opposition have been so disorganized that they haven’t put up much more than an “anyone-but-Abe” policy stance, and about how PM Abe probably won’t go after the Constitution for a while.

But I would disagree. What more does Abe need in terms of confirmed mandate? As I said, he’s won three elections solidly (probably better than even former PM and LDP party-leader template Koizumi did), he’s essentially gotten a supermajority in both houses of Parliament, and these wins will be seen as public affirmation that Abe’s on the right track (especially within the ranks of the LDP itself; he already regained the LDP presidency running unopposed). Abe has made it quite clear constantly since he’s been anywhere close to power that he wants a return to Japan’s past (foreigner-uninfluenced) glories. Now nothing is really stopping him, short of a national referendum.

And despite opinion polls saying that people don’t want bits or all of Japan’s Constitution changed, I don’t think the Japanese public is all that scared of that happening anymore. Not enough to vote significantly against him at election time.  My take is that Japan is becoming a more geriatric society, and with that more politically conservative. That conservatism I don’t think extends to old documents seen as imposed as part of Victors’ Justice. As of this writing, I will be surprised if a) Abe doesn’t push for Constitutional revision, and b) it doesn’t succeed. Clearly the Japanese public keeps handing Abe the keys to do so. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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13 comments on “Brief comments on the July 2016 Upper House Election: The path is cleared for Japan’s Constitutional revision

  • I personally think the ‘he only talked about the economy before the election, and now it’s all about revising the constitution’ thing doesn’t really count any more. After all, this is the third time that has happened. It’s not like anyone is surprised.

    The turnout probably reflects the weakness of the opposition parties, as does the win. Feeble times.

  • What is the role here of media outlets? Older people are more likely to vote, but they’re also, I’d imagine, more likely to watch NHK. What I found surprising is that young people (at least according to some news I saw today that I’m not sure can really be trusted, but that’s the state of ‘information’ here now) voted for the LDP in large numbers, too. Are they not paying attention, or do they really want these old men ruining the country for them? What in the status quo appeals to young people? I don’t get it. And it would be interesting to see where these people are getting their information (media sources) since we don’t, apparently, have a free press anymore.

  • Apathy won. 45% did not vote.
    I guess people think that at least Abe had a plan. I think the opposition
    needed to state what they wanted to achieve instead of just criticising the LDP.

    I am reminded of the US and UK. Trump won due to so many candidates.
    The Conservatives won because the Labour party is weak.
    Support for the Conservatives is just 35% (for the LDP it is about the same).

    If turnout was higher, like it was in 2009, the opposition could have done better.

    People in Tohoku, Niigata, Nagano and Yamanashi voted for change.

  • Young Japanese are just as or even more right wing than their parents and grandparents. It’s a really important point. In my experience they’re more hawkish on defence and slightly less, or just as, committed to race purity ideology.

    There was more support for Abe among young voters, as crazy as that sounds.

    There will be no deliverance from the quarter of youth.

  • I agree. The below 35 crowd are quite nationalistic. It’s how they’ve been raised by the media.

  • Baudrillard says:

    As above, the decline in overseas study, the lack of curiosity in Njs now that the “gaijin” fad has largely passed, the “muzukashii/mendokusai” feeling that English language study/culture engenders in their minds, the turning inward trends in pop music to TV to games, the Japan as victim meme, the distance of America, Japan’s main ally and the closeness of China, Japan’s perceived enemy, all conspire to make Japan’s youth as nationalistic or as “Team Japan” in their perceptions as any previous generation. The rest of the world just serves as a comparison to Ware Ware Nihonjin, a kind of idle hobby for callow/shallow youth “interested” in “gaijin”

    The signs were always there in banal expressions of first world youth “culture”;

    “Nippon no mirai wa Sekai no urayamu (yeah yeah yeah yeah)”- Morning Musume.

    (I cannot imagine The Spice Girls et al singing e.g. “UK leads the world, Brexit yeah yeah” Although some White Power skinhead groups in the USA might have a go).

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Hoffman’s article in the JT today perfectly explains my feelings and opinion on the election, well worth the read if you don’t mind being told bad news;

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/07/23/national/media-national/dark-age-dawns-politics-japan/

    Japan doesn’t want to improve, it wants to regress. Japan doesn’t want change, it want to destroy itself fighting change. Japanese people don’t care, because they don’t want the responsibility- they are the proverbial man who fell off the sky scraper and kept telling himself “So far, so good” all the way down to the impact on the pavement.

    If any of you still live in Japan, you better plan your escape.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Japan is a one party state, and Abe rules like a dictator, whilst the Japanese people are ‘a herd of sheep’?

    Dr. Debito was called a racist for calling the Japanese ‘sheeple’, but this guy gets off without having to endure right-wing and apologist slamming, insults, and accusations;

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/07/27/commentary/japan-commentary/japanese-freedom-illusion/

    I guess they all thought that Dr. Debito was ‘the wrong kind of Japanese’, whilst this guy is ‘really Japanese’, which kind of confirms our suspicions that the right-wingers and apologists are merely covering up and perpetuating their own racial prejudice, rather than proving that racism doesn’t exist here.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Anybody else notice that the mass-stabbing incident in Kanagawa was carried out by a nut-job who tweeted and wrote in his letter about ‘a beautiful country’ and hoped that Abe would be informed of his intention to kill (his he believed Abe would approve).

    It seems that Abe’s mouth flapping not only encourages right-wingers, but the mentally ill as well (maybe they are one and the same?). I guess Aso’s insistence that unproductive old people should ‘hurry up and die’ and Ishihara’s belief that women who are past child rearing age are ‘useless’ is influencing these crazies week and feeble minds.

    http://www.japantoday.com/smartphone/view/crime/letter-by-suspect-in-stabbing-rampage-carried-a-warning

    As usual, the Japanese language news media doesn’t mention Abe’s inspirational role in the mass-murder of people with disabilities, and searching for any other possible explanation.

  • Jim di Griz says:

    Meanwhile, the new ‘Shin Godzilla’ movie is being criticized by westerns, whilst simultaneously praised by Japanese critics for being a vehicle that promotes “Rah, rah support for the (Japanese) government and (Japanese) military” and being a proper Godzilla film because it’s not made by gaijin.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/07/28/films/favorite-monster-returns-terrorize-japan-shin-godzilla/

    Godzilla has become a facilitator of right-wing militarism since it’s now embarrassing to remember his anti-nuclear origins in s post-Fukushima Japan- a total inversion of Godzilla’s anti-war message.

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