Hi Blog. As usual (I get all geeky looking at election results; dunno why), let me give you a quick set of thoughts on yesterday’s election in Tokyo. I’m not going to provide really deep politico analysis on Japanese politics (that can be found most fascinatingly here and here), just some common sense.
QUICK BACKGROUND — skip if you know this already.
Yesterday’s election for the 127 seats in the Tokyo Prefectural Assembly was seen as a bellwether on how people would be voting in the next General Election (due by October by the latest, more below). If there was a significant shift towards the opposition parties, then it would be a report card for how the party in power for almost all the past five decades, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was doing (as well as the New Koumeitou (KMT), the political arm of the Souka Gakkai quasi-Buddhist religious group, who have been in an alliance with the LDP). After all, it’s been five years since we had a General Election (and the last one was a single-issue campaign, on postal reform). Four prime ministers later (Koizumi, Abe, Fukuda, now Aso), people are grumbling that the LDP is a political hulk whose only pretense to power is that they are the status quo. This penultimate Tokyo election is being seen by the media as a potential slingshot for the opposition parties (the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), the unaffiliated, and other fringe parties participating in the election).
All these results have been gleaned from the newspapers (particularly this morning’s Asahi and Mainchi) and the televised media (particularly NHK and JNN) and have my tack within.
As my friend said last night, “The LDP have been taken to the woodshed.” The LDP dropped from 48 to 38 seats. Although KMT held on to their seats (23), the DPJ was the biggest gainer, rising from 35 seats to 54. Since the majority line is at 64, for the first time an LDP-fronted coalition is not in charge of the Tokyo Prefectural Assembly.
With further breakdowns of data, the situation looks even more dire for the incumbents. According to today’s Asahi, in LDP strongholds the DPJ won two seats and lost five in 2005 (the last election). Yet this year won six and only lost one. In fact, in 40 out of 42 electoral districts, the DPJ won a seat. The same cannot be said for the LDP, which only managed this feat in 35 districts. One downtown electoral district fell from the LDP’s grasp for the first time in four decades. In all, close to half of all the DPJ’s elected members (21) were newbies. Only 4 of the LDP’s were. The status quo lost big.
Another big loser was the JCP. Despite media hype about a “boom” in the JCP’s support, they went from 13 seats to 8. The biggest loser of all was the fruitcake religious-group-funded Happiness Realization Party, the one advocating the “revision” (hah) of Article 9 of the Constitution (the bit about remaining a peaceful society) and calling for a defense against North Korean missiles. For all the money they’ve been spending nationwide, they didn’t pick up a single seat. Preliminary counts in a number of districts put their vote totals at “zero”. Yes, zero.
So now it is clear that things are truly crystallizing into a two-party polity. And it looks as if there might just be a changing of the guard come August.
PM Aso has kept saying that the Tokyo Elections have no bearing on national politics, but it seems that he’s a minority of one in that belief. Even his own party is calling for his resignation. He refuses to leave the helm of the LDP. Good. That means this proud old fool will probably drive his party further into the ground than ever before. It’s hard to envision, but if he manages to cause the dissolution of the LDP itself, he could even go down as the worst PM ever (that honor I bestow unto former PM Murayama, who killed the Socialist Party during his Faustian bargain for the prime ministership in the 1990s).
The DPJ has decided to introduce a vote of “No Confidence”, and Aso decided today that the Diet would be dissolved on July 21, with elections on August 30. As a voter, I’m looking forward to that. The long hot summer has just gotten hotter. And we may emerge with a brand new polity and sweep out the long-entrenched and corrupt incumbents at last.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo