Military


House of Representatives election
22 October 2017

Japan's ruling coalition won an overwhelming victory in the general election 22 October 2017. The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito party maintained more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats, allowing them to propose the first amendment to the country's Constitution.

The initial count, with 461 of the chamber's 465 seats decided, showed the LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, secured 283 seats, one less than before the election but far more than a simple majority of 233. Komeito won 29, bringing the total of seats held by the ruling camp to 312.

On the opposition side, the Constitutional Democratic Party, or CDP, more than tripled its seat tally to 54, making it the main opposition. The party is a splinter group of the Democratic Party, which did not run any candidates in the election. CDP President Yukio Edano said the party will fulfill its pledge to restore grassroots politics. He said it does not support amending the Constitution to approve the right of collective self-defense.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike's party, Hope, another upstart, won fewer-than-expected 49 seats. Koike said her party aimed to become an alternative for voters critical of the Abe administration, but instead was widely criticized for how she presented its policies.

Both the CDP and Hope were founded right before the election campaign began. Japanese Communist Party has won 12 seats, and Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party 10 seats. The Social Democratic Party retained one seat. The Party for Japanese Kokoro and the New Party DAICHI came away empty handed.

The prime minister announced 25 September 2017 he would dissolve the Lower House of the Diet on for a snap election, to take place 22 October 2017. Shinzo Abe said he wanted to seek a new mandate for his agenda. It includes a recent decision to modify how to spend the expected increase in revenue from a consumption tax hike. Abe said "Since I want to change the promise I made to the people, and this is an important decision that affects their lives, I decided I must seek their mandate. I will dissolve the Lower House on the 28th of September."

The long-delayed hike was now scheduled for October 2019. Most of the revenue is earmarked to pay back Japan's ballooning debt. Abe said he wanted to divert some of that money to fund childcare and education.

The announcement came as tensions with North Korea are spiking. The country fired 2 ballistic missiles over northern Japan and carried out a nuclear test over the past month. Some said it was better to avoid political instability in the face of the North's continued threats. Abe said "Elections are the basis of democracy, and they should not be affected by threats from North Korea.

Critics said the prime minister was using this election to avoid debate about alleged influence-peddling scandals. Abe countered the election was the best platform for debate. He said "The election is a vote for whether people have confidence in me, in the ruling party members, and in each lawmaker." Abe said his benchmark for victory is for his Liberal Democratic Party to secure a majority with its coalition partner Komeito.

Abe said he wanted a fresh mandate on how to use the expected revenue from a scheduled consumption tax increase in 2019. He also wanted voters to assess how he is handling the growing threat from North Korea. Abe says that determining the best way to protect the nation, and to allow Japanese people to live peacefully, is at issue in the upcoming election. He said he will use the election to seek the support of the public to diplomatically resolve the issues of North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs and the North's abduction of Japanese nationals.

Abe will face a new challenge from the party formed by allies of the hugely popular Tokyo governor. Abe's LDP will inevitably lose some of its Lower House seats to the new party, but retain a majority.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party is considering a possible merger with a new party launched by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. Seiji Maehara was expected to let members run as candidates of Koike's party. The Tokyo Governor's new party called "Hope" is shaking up the political landscape. In July, Koike's party trounced Abe's Liberal Democratic Party in the Tokyo municipal election. She is now taking that momentum to the national level. But Koike says she is not thinking about a merger with the Democrats.

Shinzo Abe, President, Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, Prime Minister: "North Korea is intentionally stepping up its threats. This is the time we should not waver. We should stand firm and not bow to the threat. Working with countries around the world, we must create a situation where North Korea will have no choice but to propose talks and pledge to change its policies. We are facing an ever-greater challenge of an aging and shrinking population. We have decided to invest boldly in the next generation. We will make pre-school education tuition-free. We will do that quickly. In this election, we will promote our policies honestly and earnestly. It is not political fads or slogans that pave the way to our future. It is policies that build our future."

Yuriko Koike, President, Hope: "During Abe's reign in politics, it's become all about being friends and pandering to people in power. Nice things are happening to people who have friends in power. Can you trust politics like that? The problem of the rapidly aging population is right in front of us. Abe is raising the consumption tax from 8 to 10 percent, and has called this general election to seek a mandate on how to use the expected revenue increase.... Lackluster ideas like that won't be good for Japan because we don't have enough time. There are things our party can say because it's new, and things we can do because we are new. During this election campaign, we want to provide ideas that other parties haven't been able to come up with... so everyone can have hope."

She used to be a TV broadcaster so shes very media savvy and in front of the media she presents a confident image. And shes very smart. She speaks Arabic, she speaks English, she knows a lot about policy. She has served as defence minister and environment minister, so she has quite a good CV to rely on. She seems reasonable. One would be hard-pressed to guess that shes a super-ultra nationalist who has often visited the Yasukuni shrine, and whos a member of Nippon Kaigi, one of the very conservative influential lobby groups in Japan.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, Chief Representative, Komeito: "We will change how we use revenue from the consumption tax to make preschool and higher education tuition-free... which will ease the burden of education fees. This election will decide the government. We ask you to let the coalition government, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito carry forward the future of Japan. We can't allow people who've advocated totally opposite opinions and who join hands only during elections to manage our lives and livelihoods."

Kazuo Shii, Chairperson, Japanese Communist Party: "This election marks a historic opportunity to oust the Abe administration once and for all. The Abe administration has pushed ahead with laws that are unconstitutional. The security legislation, the secrecy law, the conspiracy law, you name it. The ruling power is trampling on the constitution and is out of control. So let's bring back legitimate politics that protect our constitution."

Yukio Edano, President, The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan: "The current administration has widened the gap in society by making the strong even stronger. That has damaged and destroyed the robust middle class. Society is aging rapidly and is divided by the widening gap. That's more than we can tolerate. We need to ensure a decent life for everyone. Let's change government top-down decision making and reflect grass-roots public opinion."

Ichiro Matsui, Leader, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party): "In Osaka, we have made tuition virtually free for kindergarten and nursery school, meaning children 4 to 5 years old. That's in line with what was already happening at public and private high schools.... I want to see this across the country. Tuition-free education without a tax increase is what we are aiming for. We will stop the plan for a tax increase and shift our focus to reform instead."

Tadatomo Yoshida, Leader, Social Democratic Party of Japan: "We can't let the Abe administration continue because it tramples on Constitutional principles and ignores the Constitution. We will fight the election, pledging for politics that follow the Constitution as well as prioritizing people's lives."

Masashi Nakano, Chairperson, The Party for Japanese Kokoro: "Recently, and at last, there's growing momentum for the idea of amending the Constitution. A Japanese Constitution for the people, written by the people, that's what we must create. And I want to achieve that under Prime Minister Abe."

Party candidates and independents are going after the 465 seats in the Lower House of the Diet. 289 lawmakers will be elected directly, and 176 will be elected in a system of proportional representation. The threshold for a majority is 233 seats. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he'll step down if his ruling coalition doesn't achieve that.




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