It was payback time for the Liberal Democratic Party.
For the first time in recent years, LDP headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, was filled with optimism and energy as Sunday’s election returns rolled in.
Late results showed that the LDP, devastated in the last two national elections, would win the most seats in the election.
As of press time, the LDP had won 50 seats in the Upper House to the DPJ’s 41.
LDP leaders were grinning widely as they watched a TV screen showing the party picking up seats in news flashes based on exit polls. Laughter and clapping filled the room as party executives proudly pinned red flowers next to the names of winning candidates.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said the DPJ was losing because it wavered on important policies, including the relocation of the Futenma military base and the consumption tax.
“I have said that the LDP needs to become a party that has the public’s trust and that the results of this election would show the people’s judgment,” Tanigaki said on TV Tokyo. “I think the people (have come to doubt) the DPJ’s ability to rule Japan.”
The difference in atmosphere from the two previous elections was stark — the LDP crashed in flames in both the Upper House election in 2007 and the Lower House campaign in 2009 to the benefit of the Democratic Party of Japan, which was in the opposition camp in those races.
“The public wanted to put the brakes on the DPJ, which was going out of control,” LDP Secretary General Tadamori Oshima said on NHK.
“I think that the people want us to have a healthy democracy and not a loose, fiscal policy based on handouts,” Oshima said. “They want (a fiscal policy) that will assure a strong future.”
The DPJ fell short of winning a majority in the Upper House, setting the stage once again for a divided Diet. This will make it difficult for the DPJ to get government-sponsored bills passed smoothly.
Oshima said the LDP will engage in thorough discussions with the DPJ and seek out points of agreement.
“We will force a showdown with the DPJ if necessary, but the Diet is a place where representatives of the people gather, and we will base our actions in the Diet on this viewpoint,” Oshima said.
LDP lawmakers put the DPJ’s poor results down to its proposal to hike the consumption tax.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan suggested that it might have to be raised, then backed off after seeing a rapid drop in the Cabinet’s support rate.
The LDP’s policy platform clearly stated the consumption tax should be doubled to 10 percent, but Kan suddenly brought up the tax issue right before the election, casting doubts on the DPJ’s promise last summer that it would not increase the consumption tax for the next four years.
“We didn’t waver” on the consumption tax, LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba said. “That is the difference.”