National / Politics | Decision 2017

Among Japan's voters, hope for new blood vies with desire for stability

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The Lower House election Sunday saw voters back newcomers vowing to heed the voices of ordinary people and older voters opting for familiarity and stability in policies on the economy and security, The Japan Times found.

In Tokyo’s Taito Ward, Nozawa, a man in his 30s who declined to give his first name, said he voted for the new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, headed by Yukio Edano.

“I liked how he emphasized running a grass-roots campaign and his message that politics in this age shouldn’t be about left or right,” he said.

In neighboring Bunkyo Ward, a housewife in her late 60s said she also voted for the CDP, although she backed a candidate backed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike during the metropolitan assembly election in July.

“On the national stage her party, Kibo no To (Party of Hope), appears conservative-leaning and I can’t see many differences with the LDP,” she said.

“The CDP seems to be the only liberal option. And I have a rather good image of Edano,” she added.

A 69-year-old Tokyo woman said she was frustrated with the timing of the election but decided to brave the pouring rain from an approaching typhoon to get to the ballot box.

“I read the pledges of all the parties and decided to vote for the CDP because their policies and pledges on the Constitution, nuclear power, consumption tax and education made sense,” she said. She said Abenomics may have brought benefits for big companies and rich people, but none to ordinary people like herself.

Sojiro Dogaki, a 27-year-old cargo logistics specialist from Yokohama, said he voted for Kibo no To as he thought it “could bring about change.” He said his main concern was the 2019 consumption tax hike, and thought Kibo no To could stop the hike from going forward.

A 19-year-old university student from Saitama Prefecture who was participating in his first Lower House election said he backed Kibo no To because he was attracted to the way Koike was selective in taking former members of the disintegrating Democratic Party.

Scandals involving a veterinary school and kindergarten that dogged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead of the election ended up turning some voters away from the LDP, with many viewing him as evading the problems because he had gained too much power and could get away with it.

A 57-year-old security guard from Yokohama who gave his name as Ishida, criticized Abe’s lack of transparency and said he was hoping Koike’s party would stick to its pledge of pursuing politics devoid of vested interests, which struck a contrast with the male-dominated world of Japanese politics.

“Today’s politics is Abe’s one-man show,” he said.

Kiyomi Yamaguchi, 68, from Yokohama voted for Kibo no To but said she would have supported the LDP if Abe’s tactics had been cleaner.

“Abe has failed to explain his involvement in the recent Kake Gakuen scandal to the public,” she said, saying he called the snap election to divert attention from his problems.

Yamaguchi evaluated Abe’s proposal for free public tuition but said it is doubtful the LDP live up to the promise. She was hoping Kibo no To’s push for greater female empowerment would bring change to Japan’s political stage.

Rito Takeuchi, a 26-year-old IT engineer from Suginami Ward in Tokyo voted for the CDP, reasoning that Abe’s power had “become a bit too strong.”

“I think the LDP has various politicians who have different backgrounds. But their presence seems to have been undermined by pressure from the Abe administration,” he said. “I might have voted for the LDP if it were led by another politician. But not Abe.”

A 65-year-old woman from Itabashi Ward who only identified herself by her surname of Hirose, said she voted for the CDP to lessen the dominance of Abe’s LDP administration, which has continued for five years.

“I think he called for the election at a time that works favorably for himself, not the people,” she said. “I believe Abe will win this election, but I wanted to say no to his domination.”

Her husband, 65, also voted CDP, but rather reluctantly.

“I can’t have high hopes for the CDP because of the past failure of (its predecessor) the Democratic Party of Japan” during its first time in power between 2009 and 2012, he said. “But I can cast my vote to oppose Abe’s habit of turning a deaf ear to his own people.”

Misako Sakurada, 68, a Yokohama resident who went CDP, believes Japan needs a stable two-party system and said the LDP has maintained its authoritarian rule for too long.

“I want two strong political parties to pursue the best solutions,” Sakurada said. “Most of Abe’s pledges are nothing but bait. All these proposals for free preschool and high school tuition seem pretty unrealistic with this (huge) public debt.”

Meanwhile, a retiree in his 70s said he voted LDP because he “can’t see any real alternative.”

“What other party can deal with the security issues Japan is facing? Definitely not the upstart parties that were just formed in the past several weeks,” he said. “I’ve voted for the LDP in the past and think it’s still the only realistic option.”

Shinsuke Ninomiya, 26, an IT security firm employee from the town of Oizumi in Gunma Prefecture, voted for an LDP candidate as he believes the LDP is the only party that can take control of a crisis amid the heightened tensions with North Korea and other countries.

“I personally don’t rate the Abe administration very highly. But the LDP still has many capable politicians,” he said. “I don’t think I can rely on other inexperienced parties to maintain a balance in diplomatic relations with such countries as North Korea, China and Russia.”

Sayako Nakai, 43, an office worker from Osaka, said she voted for Osaka-based Nippon Ishin no Kai. “They’re the one party I know that will work hard to meet Osaka’s needs,” Nakai said.

Rapper Tomohiro Tsubouchi, 25, of Yokohama said he chose the Japanese Communist Party because its attitude seemed more open to public criticism than the ruling bloc’s.

“Many people vote for the LDP because the LDP has been ruling for so long. . . . Many of my friends, too, believe in how Abe is portrayed on TV,” he said. “But his policies don’t reflect the opinions of youths and don’t cater to their needs.”

Staff writers Alex Martin, Shusuke Murai and Eric Johnston contributed to this report.

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