LDP clinches hollow victory as opposition options elude

by and

Staff Writers

The Liberal Democratic Party handily wrapped up the Lower House election Sunday even as many voters said they were driven by lack of choice rather than enthusiasm for the conservative party headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Aside from its hard-core supporters, several people interviewed by The Japan Times after casting ballots in Tokyo and Osaka were resigned to yet another LDP victory, while others stuck to their guns and supported the opposition.

A 67-year-old housewife in the western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka who only wanted to be identified by her surname, Abe, said she voted for an LDP candidate because she feels the party has the best shot at delivering on its pledges.

“It’s not like I feel supportive of any particular policy, but when I looked at the other contesting parties, I got the vibe that none actually have the ability to follow through on what they say,” she said, adding that she didn’t want to see a repeat of the Democratic Party of Japan’s disappointing rookie debut in 2009.

Yuta Nagahara, a 21-year-old university student also from Mitaka, said he voted LDP in hopes it will continue to forge ahead with “Abenomics,” Abe’s sputtering economic mix of fiscal stimulus, radical monetary easing and vows of structural reform.

A financial industry employee from the trendy Kichijoji area next door in the city of Musashino said she voted for an LDP candidate in the belief that “Japan has definitely been riding high even since Abe took the helm.” The 29-year-old woman, who declined to be named, praised the surging stock market and weaker yen as signs Japan is going in the right direction.

Her proportional-representation ballot meanwhile went to Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), co-headed by brash Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Kenji Eda, because she felt encouraged by its vow to “restore a stronger Japan.”

But not everyone was a fan of the prime minister or his LDP.

A 36-year-old interpreter who only gave her surname of Uesaki, said in Kichijoji that her proportional-representation vote went to the Japanese Communist Party.

“It’s glaringly obvious that Abe’s economic policies are only benefiting big companies. . . . I even don’t know what to say about his stint over the past two years except that I’m so sick of him,” she said.

Likewise, Uesaki said Abe’s much-hyped drive to make Japan a female-friendly society was “too vague a concept” and didn’t strike a chord with her at all.

This was echoed by a 47-year-old painter who identified herself as Muto and voted for former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, a long-time Musashino favorite. Muto said she is pinning all her hopes on the slim possibility that her ballot would help the DPJ return as a stronger counterweight to the mighty LDP.

“It’s not that I’m particularly fond of the DPJ,” she said. “I just don’t like the LDP.”

Abe’s apparent willingness to rewrite the pacifist Constitution, lift the ban on collective self-defense and fire up arms exports “makes me worry that this country is heading toward war,” Muto added.

Further east, at a polling station at Fukagawa-Daigo junior high school in the Toyosu district in Koto Ward, a 65-year-old housewife who asked to remain anonymous said she voted for Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) in the proportional representation section because the thinks the far-right party is the only one that can make Japan strong again.

“Jisedai no To has many candidates who have strong wills, such as (former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff and deputy leader Toshio) Tamogami. . . . Amid ours worsening relationships with China, I hope they will make Japan a strong country again to counter such external threats,” she said.

Kosuke Nabeta, 42, who brought along his family, said he voted for the LDP after reflecting on how his choices could affect his wife and preschool-age daughter.

“Economic recovery was my priority issue, as that directly affects the future of my daughter and our life after retirement,” he said. “I hope the LDP will get the job done as they advertise.”

In Osaka, meanwhile, the mood among those who voted for Hashimoto’s Ishin no To was one of cold resignation, after he told supporters Saturday night that the party would be soundly beaten by the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition. Hashimoto also hinted that he might resign as co-leader, depending on the outcome.

“I admit, we’re going to lose completely. We’ve been done in by Abe. Everybody says Ishin is bad and it’s my responsibility. But please give me one more chance to turn things around,” the outspoken Hashimoto said in a final appeal.

“To be blunt, there’s no hope for Ishin the national political party, and as the party’s co-leader, I have to apologize,” he said.

Ishin, which held 42 seats going into the election, had been widely predicted to lose big. Hashimoto begged voters to re-elect between 10 and 20 of its 42 members in the lower chamber, but some who backed the party did so because they disliked the LDP more than they liked Hashimoto and Ishin.

“Hashimoto made a lot of mistakes, but I really don’t care for Abe or the LDP. They have too much power already, and without an effective opposition, they’ll become ever more arrogant,” said Kenichi Fukushima, 61, an Osaka banker who voted for Ishin candidates.

One of the key battles in Osaka was the 10th district, where the DPJ’s Kiyomi Tsujimoto, 54, Ishin’s Kenta Matsunami, 43, and Kazuhide Okuma, 45, backed by the LDP and Komeito, are locked in a particularly intense campaign.

“I voted for Tsujimoto because, despite the problems of the DPJ, we need a strong opposition party — especially one with strong women,” said Ryoko Watanabe, 56, an Osaka housewife.

  • China Lee

    According to the IMF October World Economic Outlook (WEO), the nominal GDP estimates for China and Japan are:

    China: $10.4 trillion
    Japan: $4.8 trillion

    China: $11.3 trillion
    Japan: $4.9 trillion

    China: $12.2 trillion
    Japan: $5.0 trillion

    To summarize, the IMF expects China’s economy to grow by $2 trillion in the next two years. Japan’s economy will barely budge by $0.2 trillion. Since the Chinese GDP growth will be 10 times larger than Japan’s, Shinzo Abe might want to tone down his anti-China speeches and think about increasing exports to the vastly larger Chinese market.

    • Al_Martinez

      If Abe-kun did as you suggest, he would lose the support of a large block of rabid, fascist voters.

      • China_Lee

        Shinzo Abe has a choice. Is it politics as usual with his anti-China rhetoric or does he want to grow Japan’s economy?