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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.
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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