His Liberal Democratic Party’s massive defeat in Sunday’s Upper House election notwithstanding, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared that he will not step down. His far-from-convincing explanations for staying on, even when cursorily examined, sound like a quibble. By clinging to power, Mr. Abe will further deepen people’s distrust in him, as expressed in the election, and cause additional harm to the LDP.
After the election, Mr. Abe said: “While making an electioneering tour of Japan, I recognized that the election results would be very severe. But I didn’t think I should run away from my duty, and a political vacuum should not be allowed to happen. So I have decided (to stay in power).”
During the campaign, Mr. Abe emphasized that the key issue in the election should be the choice between him and opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa. It is usually said that an Upper House election is not about choosing a government. But Mr. Abe himself, at least rhetorically, turned the Upper House election into a contest to decide the nation’s next leader. The public will instantly notice a gap in his logic.
Mr. Abe also insisted that, through the campaign, the people came to understand his administration’s basic policy line of “reform.” It is logically difficult to make his statement congruous with what happened in the election, in which half of the Upper House’s 242 seats were contested. The LDP won 37 seats while the DPJ won 60 seats. The LDP’s total strength in the chamber is now 83 seats against the DPJ’s 109 seats. The ruling camp has 105 seats against the opposition’s 137 seats.
He has instructed the LDP to seek a revision of the just-revised Political Funds Control Law — after displaying no political leadership in separating money from politics and letting a revision bill with a big loophole pass the Diet. Dismissal of his farm minister over political-funds allegations came too late.
Mr. Abe said he will “direct light on the shadows” caused by “reform” policies. But his reliance on dicing up logic will lead many people to continue casting skeptical eyes on him.
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