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I waited until today, when all seats had been awarded (four were decided nearly a day after polls closed). So here goes:
OCTOBER 2017 LOWER HOUSE ELECTION RESULTS
As Japan politics watchers know, Japan is a parliamentary system where the party or coalition with the majority of seats in a legislature forms the governing Cabinet. In Japan’s case, the Lower House is the more powerful one in terms of actual policymaking (even though Japan’s Upper House is already in the hands of Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP), so this snap election, called by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo basically on a whim (there wasn’t one due for another two years), was essentially a referendum on whether Japan’s electorate wanted to continue on Abe’s course of probable Constitutional amendment and remilitarization.
The conclusion: Japan’s electorate is basically just fine with Abe’s rightist agenda.
Granted, there was a typhoon getting in the way on election day (although there is no indication that inclement weather affects leftists more than rightists). And there was no real viable opposition to Abe, either. Japan’s left is in complete disarray (given fickle Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko’s “Hope Party” offering little more than re-warmed Abe; Koike wasn’t even in Japan for the election!), with the Democratic Party of Japan completely dissolving from ruling party in 2011 into nonexistence (with right-leaning DPJers being absorbed into the Hope Party, and left-leaning DPJers forming a new “Constitutional Democratic Party” (Rikken Minshutou, or CDP) in clear opposition to Abe’s Constitutional reforms). And the DPRK repeatedly sending missiles over Japanese waters and land certainly isn’t helping the pacifist point-of-view much.
The point is that Japan’s electorate, which doesn’t generally support underdogs (Why waste your vote on a losing party?, is more the logic), went for Abe and the LDP in general out of habit, default, or tribalism.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, according to Asahi.com (Japanese; click to expand in browser):
As you can see, the ruling LDP (in red) retained its absolute 2/3 majority beyond 310 seats in the assembly. Its coalition with Sokka Gakkai religious party Komeito (KMT) remains firmly in power, with 284 plus 29 seats for LDP and KMT respectively.
WINNERS AND LOSERS:
The LDP, as mentioned above, won big. But it wasn’t an unqualified win. It retained exactly the same number as last time. However, KMT lost five seats from the 34 it had pre-election.
However, the protest vote by people who wanted a party to keep Japan’s Constitution as it is (the CDP), won bigger, going from 15 seats from its former DPJ/DP politicians to a full 55. Message: The DPJ is dead, long live its spirit in the CDP.
The losers were just about everyone else. Koike’s Hope Party dropped from 57 to 50 seats, the far-right Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai) from 14 to 11, the far-left Communist Party from 21 to 12, and the tiny socialist Social Democratic Party (Shamintou) unchanged at two seats.
The biggest losers were the party-unaffiliated politicians (mushozoku) on both sides. The ones leaning left went from 27 seats to 21, while the ones leaning right went from eleven to one! Part of this is that due to the Proportional Representation vote (which only applies to official parties), these independents had to win in single-seat constituencies. But the bigger reason seems to be that brand recognition these days sells well: Either you stampeded with the herd under the LDP’s umbrella, or you went for a party flavor du jour (which quickly soured under Koike’s Hope, but clearly flowered under the CDP).
WHAT DISTRICTS WENT FOR WHOM
One thing I love about Japanese elections (and there are quite a few things I love) is the clarity of the visuals. You can see how people voted in this map of all the single-seat constituencies in the prefectures. Red is ruling coalition, Blue opposition, and Grey independent:
Based upon this, you can see that Western Honshu essentially all went LDP/KMT, big cities Osaka and Fukuoka were solid LDP/KMT with even far-right Restoration making seats. The Kanto conurbation of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa were somewhat mixed, but mostly Red again. And the only places there was a true mix were Hokkaido (traditionally left-leaning) and Okinawa (which elected one of everything except the CDP and KMT).
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST WITH THIS ELECTION
1) Horrible, horrible Hokkaido politician Suzuki Muneo finally lost his seat under the PR system. This isn’t the first time this former LDP ideologue has been down and out, but here’s hoping it’s his last.
2) The political dynasty of Hatoyama did not succeed in getting LDP Hatoyama Kunio’s eldest son elected this time. However, the dynasty of racist former Governor Ishihara Shintaro was maintained with the reelection of his sons. Also, the daughter of former PM Obuchi was reelected, further demonstrating the power of generational branding (seshuu seijika) in Japan.
This has been the third time (more than that if you also add in Upper House elections) Japan’s has given a sweeping mandate to PM Abe and his Constitution-revising stance. I guess they’re pretty much okay with it. There’s still a national referendum to be run on this. But I reckon it’ll get through, especially if North Korea keeps scaring the Japanese public with missile tests. And of course, not making any blip whatsoever in the election (aside from Koike requiring new entrants to sign an oath to disenfranchise foreign resident voters) were issues of immigration and internationalization in Japan.
Comments? Dr. Debito Arudou
PS: Other writings on Japanese politics:
My Japan Times JBC column 102, Oct 31, 2016: “U.S. and Japan elections: Scary in their own ways“
My Japan Times JBC column 101: “US and Japan votes: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (Oct 3, 2016)
My Japan Times JBC column 99, “For Abe, it will always be about the Constitution”, Aug 1, 2016
My Japan Times JBC 92 Oct. 5, 2015: “Conveyor belt of death shudders back to life”, on how Abe’s new security policy will revive Prewar martial Japan
My Japan Times JBC 91 Sept 7, 2015: “Why Japan’s Right keeps leaving the Left in the dust“
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column 88: “U.S. green-lights Japan’s march back to militarism”, on America’s historical amnesia in US-Japan Relations, June 1, 2015
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 70, “Japan brings out big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.”, on how an October 2013 speech in Hawaii by the Abe Administration’s Kitaoka Shin’ichi is a classic case of charm offensive by a Gaijin Handler, floating a constitutional reinterpretation to allow for a standing Japanese military before the American military. (November 7, 2013)
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 66: “Ol’ blue eyes isn’t back: Tsurunen’s tale offers lessons in microcosm for DPJ”, Aug 5, 2013
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 61, “Keep Abe’s hawks in check or Japan will suffer,” a recounting of how ill a rerun of an Abe Shinzou Prime Ministership portends to be for Japan as a liberal democracy. (February 4, 2013)
My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, “Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place,” on how the Senkakus and Takeshima Disputes are more than just an official distraction for domestic problems – they are a means to stop crucial liberalizations from taking place within Japanese society. (October 2, 2012)
Japan Focus: “Japan’s Democracy at Risk: LDP’s 10 Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change” by Lawrence Repeta (UPDATED with Aso’s Nazi admiration gaffe).
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