Following the Liberal Democratic Party’s poor showing in Sunday’s election, the world’s media seemed unanimous in its description of the results as a major setback to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and his party.
The LDP’s “stinging setback” could lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Mori after next month’s Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, The New York Times reported Monday.
In a dispatch from Tokyo, the U.S. newspaper said the LDP “barely retained control over the powerful Lower House in a surprisingly weak showing that could put strong pressure on its recently appointed prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, to resign.”
“Many are already expecting calls for a replacement of the prime minister after Japan (hosts) a summit meeting of leading industrial nations next month,” it said.
“The strong turn against the governing party in urban areas — and even in rural regions that are the main beneficiaries of the lavish government spending — suggested that Japanese yearn for a shift away from the (LDP), who have ruled the country for all but 18 months since 1955. But voters apparently do not yet regard the Democratic Party (of Japan) as a viable alternative,” it said.
The U.S. newspaper also pointed out that, “The force of the electoral tide against Mr. Mori could be seen in the embarrassing fact that two of his ministers, Trade Minister Takashi Fukaya and Agriculture Minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa, were unable to keep their Parliament seats.”
Britain’s Times newspaper also said Monday that Japanese voters dealt a heavy blow to the LDP, although they lacked the courage to completely turn their backs on the party.
“The biggest winner was the main opposition Democratic Party (of Japan), which appears to have benefited from widespread distrust of (Prime Minister Yoshiro) Mori, whose gaffes since taking office two months ago have led to widespread ridicule,” the British daily said.
The advance of the DPJ “was taken as a sign that voters were losing patience with the wasteful, pork-barrel politics that have kept the (LDP) in power for most of the past 45 years,” it said.
However, it said voters, “despite their dismay at the troubled state of their once-envied economy, lacked the courage to turn their backs on the party that has been the face of the Japanese government for a generation and embrace the austere and radical path of reform urged by the opposition.”
The three-way ruling coalition, comprising the LDP, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito party and the New Conservative Party, won a stable majority in the Lower House.
The London daily also questioned how long Mori would retain his position because “many voters say bluntly that in just two months in office he (has) cost his party their support.”
The daily detailed Mori’s recent gaffes and said that he “has earned a footnote in history as the national leader who has put his foot in his mouth the most times in the shortest period.”
Mori first startled the nation with a remark saying Japan is a “divine nation” centering on the Emperor. Just a few days later, he drew fire by using the term “kokutai,” which refers to the Japanese polity before and during World War II.
The most important elements of “kokutai” were rule by an unbroken Imperial line and the concept of the state as a family, in which the relationship between the Emperor and his subjects was likened to that between a father and his children.
Mori also suggested undecided voters should “stay in bed and sleep” rather than drag themselves to the polling booths. A high turnout tends to favor opposition parties.
The Washington Post called the LDP’s setback a “reflection of the glum mood of Japan’s electorate.”
“The sluggish economy has brought a rising tide of unemployment, bankruptcies, homelessness and suicides,” the U.S. daily said. Meanwhile, Channel NewsAsia, the Chinese state-run television news channel, reported the LDP “lost its outright majority, leaving it at the mercy of its two partners.”
It said the victory, with a slimmed-down majority, is “likely to prompt the ruling camp to stick to its policy of putting priority on growth ahead of fiscal reforms as Japan struggles out of recession.”