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House of Representatives election - 18 November 2014

On 18 November 2014 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election for 14 December 2014 in hopes of delaying an increase in the sales tax to 10 percent in 2015. The hike was legislated by the previous administration to curb Japan's huge public debt. Japanese lawmakers said postponing the planned increase by a year-and-a-half could add about half a percent to growth. Japan slipped into an unexpected recession in the third quarter of 2014 after logging negative growth for the second consecutive quarter.

Abe's ruling coalition won a landslide victory in lower house snap elections 14 December 2014, despite a low voter turnout. Exit polls showed the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, winning 326 seats, one more than a two-thirds majority, in the 475-member lower house. Of these, Komeito won 35 seats. The election would provide a fresh mandate of four more years to implement some of the less popular elements of his "Abenomics" strategy. The election win will make it easier to pass unpopular reforms like deregulating labor and farm policies. It also will likely allow Abe to pursue a nationalist agenda likely to antagonize South Korea and China.

The largest opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan, won 73 seats, 11 more than its pre-election strength of 62. But DPJ President Banri Kaieda lost his seat. The Japan Innovation Party won 41 seats. The Japanese Communist Party won 21 seats, more than doubling its pre-election strength of 8. It was the first time in 14 years for the party to secure 10 or more seats.

The LDP-Komeito coalition held a two-thirds majority in the 475-seat Lower House and a simple majority in the 242-seat Upper House. If the ruling bloc gained 86 seats in the Upper House election 2016, it will be able hold a national referendum on revising the Constitution. In his first news conference of 2016, on 04 January 2016, Abe denied speculation that he will hold a Lower House election simultaneously with the Upper House race in July 2016. Thirty-two constituencies in which one seat is up for grabs will determine who wins the upper house election.

On 20 February 2016 Leaders of five opposition parties - Democratic Party of Japan, JCP, Japan Innovation Party, Social Democratic Party and People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends - agreed to cooperate in campaigns for the House of Councillors election in July 2016. Cooperation between five parties with differing fundamental principles could be criticized as unprincipled, bu this reflected a judgment that only joint opposition candidates can defeat their top rival, the Liberal Democratic Party. In response, some in the LDP are pressing for a countermove by dissolving the House of Representatives to hold elections for both houses simultaneously.

On 25 February 2016 the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) announced it would merge with the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin) and adopt a new name - Democratic Party [DP]. The DPJ won just 73 of the 475 seats contested in the 2014 election, while Ishin took 21. Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, described the merger of the DPJ and Ishin as “a reunion of old flames; two parties with nowhere to go, not much of a future, no core constituencies and no star power”.

The realignment in the opposition came as the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) declared that it will refrain from putting forward candidates in some constituencies in the anticipated elections. The JCP took 21 seats in the 2014 general election, an increase of 13. JCP dropped its candidate in Hokkaido, so voters opposed to the LDP could back the single anti-LDP candidate, who already had the backing of the DPJ and several other parties.

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Page last modified: 26-06-2016 20:21:28 ZULU