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Japan Politics - Election 2012

Leading Candidates for Prime Minister
Yoshihiko Noda Democratic Party of JapanDPJ
Shinzo Abe Liberal Democratic PartyLDP
Shintaro Ishihara Sunrise Party of JapanSPJ
Japanese elections were held on 16 December 2012, following a 15 November 2012 announcement that Parliament would be disolved. Under Japan’s constitution, lower house elections must be held by 30 August 2013. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), crippled by defections of lawmakers from its ranks, lost more than two-thirds of its seats in the more powerful 480-seat lower house of parliament (officially the House of Representatives). Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda conceded at a brief news conference. Noda says the defeat is his personal responsibility, therefore he would resign as head of the party.

The Liberal Democratic Party won 294 seats and its coalition partner New Komeito 31 in the 480-member House of Representatives. That would secure a two-thirds' majority - enough to override the upper house (known as the House of Councilors), where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is the largest single party. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced his resignation as the DPJ chief after losing in parliamentary election. The DPJ, headed by current Prime Minister Yushihiko Noda, got only 57 seats.

Surveys had predicted the LDP, led by former prime minister Shinzo Abe, would win more than 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house, which is more powerful than the upper house for which elections were expected in July 2013. But a third party could have an outsized influence if the LDP falls short of a two-thirds majority. A major conductor of that third force is the former Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, who hoped his recently formed Japan Restoration Party would gain enough seats to hold the balance of power, possibly even resulting in him being asked to form the government. Ishihara's Japan Restoration Party captured about as many seats as the DPJ managed to retain. Voter turnout was a postwar record low of 59.32 percent, or about 10 percentage points below the figure for the 2009 Lower House election.

The Liberal Democratic Party had, overall, shifted somewhat to the right, since the last election." The LDP's movement farther to right came after its more moderate candidates in metropolitan districts were defeated in previous elections, gradually giving more power within the party to provincial conservatives. The LDP's current election platform reflects that shift, including bolstering the size and power of the Self-Defense Forces. Abe also favors a constitutional revision to the pacifist Article Nine, which prohibits Japan from rearming or participating in collective self-defense. Other nationalistic elements in the platform are raising significant concern outside the country. They call for Japan to increase its effective control of islands also claimed by China and to re-examine historical issues, such as the so-called "comfort women," who were taken from colonial Korea and used as prostitutes by the Japan imperial forces during the Pacific War.

On Monday 12 November 2012 the Nikkei business daily and the Asahi Shimbun reported that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda would call for an election at some point between 16 December 2012 and 20 January 2013. As of early November 2012, it appeared unlikely that elections would be held in 2012, despite months of speculation and manuvering. In August 2012 it was reported that lower house would likely be dissolved in October for a November election, though by late October this had not happened and a December election seemed probable. In mid-October 2012 Komeito [the Clean Government Party] said the lower house election should be held no later than 09 December if it was to be held in 2012. To realize the schedule, the lower house should be dissolved by 16 November 2012. From mid-December, the task of compiling the next fiscal year's budget will enter its final phase. Thus a senior DPJ member said the next lower house election must be held on 02 December 2012 by the latest so it won't affect the budget compilation. Some politicians said if the election is not held on 02 December or earlier, it will be postponed until next year.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called on the opposition to back the bill to fund the rest of this year’s budget before he fulfills an August pledge to call an election “soon.” On 04 November 2012 Japanese opposition leader Shinzo Abe signaled his willingness to allow parliamentary debate on the bill, while stopping short of saying he will support it. at that time ruling Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi said calling an election before the end of the year would be “difficult” [polite Japanese for impossible]. According to a Kyodo News poll, support for the DPJ was 12.1 percent compared with 27.7 percent for the LDP. Support for Noda was at 17.7 percent, the lowest since he took office in September 2011.

Whoever wins the elections will face the deep-rooted problems in Japan's stagnant economy, which has been saddled by a massive public debt, a rapidly aging population and recovery from last year's massive earthquake and tsunami.

On 10 August 2012 the upper house of parliament passed a bill doubling the country's consumption tax - from 5 to 10 percent - over the coming three years. Opposition parties called on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to call early elections to demonstrate he has public support for the measure, intended to secure revenues for the social welfare system. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party failed in an effort to force Prime Minister Noda to set an election date in exchange for their support on the bill. The approval in the LDP-controlled upper house, where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is in the minority, came after Prime Minister Noda promised to bring forward the date for the next general elections. The LDP had helped push the bill through the lower house in June 2012.

The Liberal Democratic Party is eager for the lower house to be dissolved at an early date, while the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is trying to delay for as long as possible. An Asahi newspaper poll of 06 August 2012 showed the prime minister’s support rate had fallen to 22 percent, down from 25 percent the previous month, the lowest since he took power in September 2011. The DPJ and LDP each had 13 percent support. Komeito is concerned that the lower house election not coincide the House of Councillors election in July 2013, as party leaders believes simultaneous elections would impose a heavy burden on the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist organization, the Party's major supporting body. Some analysts forecase a general election could come in December 2012. But LDP president Sadakazu Tanigaki's term as expires in September 2012, and the chances of his reelection as party chief would dim should the LDP fail to force a general election before then. The LDP leadership is said to believe the would be able to gain a single-party majority in the lower house if the election were to be held soon.

On September 26, 2012 the Liberal Democratic Party elected former PM Shinzo Abe as leader for the coming election. The election of Abe as Prime Minister would be likely to alarm Beijing, which is mired in a major diplomatic crisis with Tokyo about a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. LDP officials have called on Japan to build on the islands, which are also claimed by China. Tokyo purchased the islands from their private Japanese owner earlier this month, angering Beijing.

Shintaro Ishihara, the 80 year old mayor of Tokyo, announced 25 October 2012 that he was resigning his Tokyo mayoral post effective immediately, to form and lead a “true conservative” party into the general election. After a 25 year Diet career as a member of the LDP that ended in 1995, Ishihara was first elected mayor of Tokyo in April 1999 as an independent. He remains a popular, and consistently controversial figure, given his ultra-nationalist and occasionally anti-American views. In 1989, along with Sony’s Akio Morita, he authored the best selling book The Japan that Can Say No. Ishihara advocated scrapping Japan’s “peace constitution” and pursuing a foreign policy more independent of US leadership. Interviewed in July 2011, Ishihara said “Japan should absolutely possess nuclear weapons,” citing China and North Korea as potential threats.

Sunrise Party leader Takeo Hiranuma stated that his party, with a pair of lawmakers in the 480-seat lower house and three in the 242-seat upper chamber, will disband and re-form as a new group under Ishihara. Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru whose “Japan Restoration Association” has been gaining credibility, and seeking an alliance with the reformist “Your Party” led by Watanabe Yoshimi.

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Page last modified: 18-09-2018 18:37:44 ZULU