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Low voter turnout mars Abe’s claim of election triumph


Staff Writer

The day after Sunday’s Lower House election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was looking triumphant.

He told a news conference he had won a new, stronger voter mandate, trumpeting the 1 million extra ballots his Liberal Democratic Party secured this time compared with the previous election in 2012.

“Voters now expect much more from us to keep moving forward by maintaining political stability,” Abe said.

But is that true?

One might draw a different conclusion when comparing figures from the 2009, 2012 and 2014 Lower House elections.

Voters can cast two ballots, one for a single-seat constituency candidate and one for a registered political party. In Sunday’s election, the LDP won 290 seats in the 475-seat chamber by receiving 43.12 million votes in the single-seat constituencies and proportional representation districts.

The figure is up nearly 1 million from the 42.23 million votes the party won in the 2012 election, as Abe pointed out.

But the 2014 figure is still far smaller than the number it received in the 2009 election, which it lost in a crushing defeat by the Democratic Party of Japan. The LDP won 46.11 million votes in the 2009 election and yet only 119 of the 480 seats available at that time.

What explains this apparent contradiction?

“That’s because the voter turnout rate has fallen sharply,” said Takeshi Sasaki, a professor emeritus of political science at University of Tokyo.

Sunday’s election, like the previous 2012 poll, renewed the lowest-ever turnout rate, which presumably benefited the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition. The two parties have more core supporters than opposition parties, which depend more on swing voters.

The turnout rate was 52.66 percent in single-seat constituencies in Sunday’s election, while the 2009 election saw the highest-ever rate of 69.28 percent.

In Sunday’s election, the combined number of voter abstentions for single-seat constituencies and proportional presentation districts surged to 98.45 million from 63.88 million in 2009.

In addition, 3.2 million invalid votes were cast in the latest election, while the corresponding figure in the 2009 poll stood at 3.06 million. Many of the invalid votes were probably a protest vote registering unhappiness with all registered candidates and parties.

Those figures suggest the LDP won big this time largely thanks to voters’ disappointment with opposition parties — or even with all of the country’s politicians in general — rather than a strong preference for the LDP itself.

The results of an opinion poll conducted by daily Yomiuri Shimbun on Monday and Tuesday back up this theory.

The survey found 65 percent of 1,078 respondents said the LDP won a big victory because it was “less unsatisfactory” than other parties; 55 percent said they wished the LDP had won fewer seats.

The DPJ ran the administration from 2009 through 2012, but committed blunders in diplomacy and broke its election promises, including a pledge to cut the size of government and find savings.

“Voters saw what the DPJ actually did (while in power) and now have tougher views on opposition parties,” Sasaki said.

Voters thus have been disillusioned about opposition parties and “just reconfirmed the status quo” in this election, he said.

Sasaki also said few candidates or parties during the campaigning addressed solutions to fundamental problems such as how to deal with the country’s snowballing government debt.

  • timefox

    I think it’s wrong to call a result of the Okinawa gubernatorial election will of the people and not to call a result of the House of Representatives an election will of the people.

    Low of the voting rate won’t be a problem. They have decided that they don’t go to election by themselves. I think it’s a problem if others interfered with their voting.

    I think the person who colors low of the voting rate to like oneself is a problem.

    • rossdorn

      As it is impossible to understand most of your english, here is just about the difference between Okinawa and the rest of the country.

      In Okinawa there was an actual choice, in the brest of the country there was not.

      People there had a choice to vote for their own interest.

  • rossdorn

    “Low voter turnout mars Abe’s claim of election triumph”

    Is it not all much, much simpler?
    Of course Abe did not enjoy the low voter turnout, but as the result was an increased majority, I am quite sure he will be able to live with that in the next four years, or, until the next election.

    One can easily find two reasons for the election result.
    One is the offer, that japan’s politics makes to the voters. When you look at the choices people are given here, then you can seriously blame the people for not voting.
    (Please, no misunderstandings: There very few countries, where that does not apply!)
    But the other reason is even more serious. It is the apathy of the people, the believe in authority by the people. The Japanese may be a very nice people to live with, but they must be the easiest people to govern on this planet.
    Democracy is a two-way street, if there is no pressure at all from people, why should politicians behave and work differently?

    The old rules, as always, still apply:
    Every people has the government it deserves.
    If democratic elections could really change something, then would not be allowed.

  • Barbara Trout

    Thank you, all the voters who took the time and trouble to vote out the members of the extremist The Party of Future Generations, which went from 19 members to 2 in the Lower House.
    Quoting from Article 96 of the Constitution of Japan :
    ARTICLE 96. Amendments to this Constitution shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify.
    (2) Amendments when so ratified shall immediately be promulgated by the Emperor in the name of the people, as an integral part of this Constitution.
    The LDP and Komeito have more than the two-thirds majority in the Lower House, also called the House of Representatives, but NOT in the Upper House (134 out of 242, needs 162).

    Amendments must also be approved by a majority of voters in the referendum, probably in the next election, 2016.
    To all of you who care about the future of Japan, your future, the future of your younger generations, your basic human rights, etc.
    The Constitution of Japan is the supreme laws of Japan. No laws can be passed which violate the Constitution.
    The Constitution protects your rights to sue the government, your freedom of thought, expression, assembly, your right to a fair trial, your rights against searches and seizures without a warrant from a judge, etc.
    Let US work together to make all attempts to amend the Constitution a failure.