The Liberal Democratic Party’s victories in two Lower House by-elections Sunday — one in the Kanagawa Prefecture No. 16 district and the other in the Osaka Prefecture No. 9 district — will boost Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s position in the ruling camp. The electoral victories will give him confidence in pushing his political agenda, including a revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, which is designed to instill patriotism in children and strengthen state control over education.
In contrast, the poll results must have disappointed Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party, who hoped that victories in the elections would give an impetus to his party in its long-term efforts toward winning the Upper House election next July.
Several factors worked in favor of the LDP. The DPJ had planned to assail Mr. Abe for his perception of Japan’s modern wars. But before the election, Mr. Abe moderated his position by making clear to the Chinese and South Korean leaders that he will endorse the Aug. 15, 1995, statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in which the government officially apologized to people of Asian nations for the damage and pain inflicted by Japan’ colonial rule and aggression in the 1930s and ’40s.
Mr. Abe’s visits to China and South Korea to improve Japan’s bilateral relations with them, North Korea’s Oct. 9 nuclear-weapons test and the government’s swift response to it, plus Mr. Abe’s moderation of his historical views have made it difficult for the DPJ to go after Mr. Abe.
The DPJ tried to call voters’ attention to the widening gap between rich and poor and the pension issue, but these topics, compared with Mr. Abe’s performance on the diplomatic front, were not strong enough to attract them.
But the LDP has a weak point. In both by-elections, the LDP had to rely on support from voters affiliated with Komeito, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, to win. The lesson for the DPJ is to work out a policy platform attractive to voters and an effective campaign method as well as strengthen its election machine.
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