On election's eve, Japan's conservatives appear poised for dramatic comeback
If polls ahead of Sunday's vote are correct, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will take up the top slot again as leader of the LDP. His more hawkish tone on China has played well to an uneasy electorate.
Japan’s political carousel is about to revolve yet again. By late on Sunday evening, the world’s third biggest economy is expected to install its seventh prime minister in six years, with polls predicting a dramatic comeback by the conservative opposition and its hawkish leader, Shinzo Abe.Skip to next paragraph
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If the predictions are correct, Japan’s political landscape will have a familiar feel to it. Mr. Abe, who was chosen to lead the Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] earlier this year, has already held the top job, for a year from September 2006.
Abe resigned amid scandal and ill health, and three years later, the LDP, which had monopolized power for more than 50 years, suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ] in an election that many predicted would signal a new direction for Japanese politics.
Now, on the eve of the election, the DPJ experiment lies in ruins. The prime minister,Yoshihiko Noda, has been criticized for his handling of the economy, his “weak” response to Chinese provocations over the Senkaku islands – known as the Diaoyu in China – and his party’s failure to make good on campaign promises.
It marks a dramatic decline in the DPJ’s fortunes, coming so soon after it tapped into voter discontent with the status quo, pledging to curb the influence of faceless bureaucrats, shift money from wasteful public works to families and welfare, and lessen foreign-policy dependence on the US.
The mot recent opinion polls indicate that the DPJ’s strength in the 480-seat lower house could be reduced to fewer than 70 seats. The LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito could even secure two-thirds of lower house seats, giving it complete control of the bicameral legislature after five years of division and policy stasis.
China plays a big role
While Japan’s stuttering economy is the chief concern of voters as it enters its fourth recession since 2000, the course of the election campaign has been determined, in part, by the country’s fractious relations with China.
Only this week, a Chinese marine surveillance plane flew into Japanese airspace over the Senkaku, sparking protests from Tokyo. Beijing then raised the stakes with the submission to the UN of a detailed explanation of its claims to the islands.