World Bulletin/News Desk
With a week to go until Japan votes in a snap election, the ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems set to win an overall majority, according to polls.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, known as the LDP, and its long-time partner New Komeito are likely to win a two-thirds majority from the 475 House of Representatives seats up for grabs on Dec. 14, the Kyodo news service said, enough to dominate Japanese politics and government for the next four years.
Abe has played down his party’s prospects, saying he would be happy to achieve a simple majority of 238 seats.
But observers say that a bare majority would be a huge disappointment to Abe and demonstrate the electorate’s lack of faith in his policies.
The premier, who has been in office for two years, can be confident of greater electoral success largely because of the weakness and disunity of the opposition parties.
The main opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan, known as the DPJ, has not fully recovered from the drubbing it received in 2012 after four shaky years in government.
The party makes no secret of its main goal being to simply increase its numbers in parliament, known as the Diet, in the hope of challenging the LDP in the following general election. It has fielded 195 candidates, not even enough to give it a majority.
This election is marked by the demise of ‘third force’ parties in the race. In 2012, a record 12 parties competed, compared with nine parties this year.
Two years ago the newly-formed Japan Restoration Party, founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, picked up 54 seats, making it the third-largest force in the Diet until the party split.
Another small party, the Your Party, also did well in 2012, winning 18 seats. However, it recently disbanded.
Altogether, third force parties garnered as many as 70 seats in 2012, which will provide a hunting ground for the LDP and the DPJ. A few members of the defunct Your Party have already defected to the DPJ.
This year, the opposition parties have honed their nomination strategies, hoping to end the situation that prevailed in 2012 where two, three or even four parties carved up the anti-LDP vote, allowing the ruling party to win more seats than they might have otherwise.
One unknown factor is the large numbers of floating voters – around 40 percent – who are unaligned to a particular party and undecided about who to vote for.
In the past, floating voters have caused wild fluctuations, with a party gaining 200 seats, only to lose an equal number at the next poll. However, that is not expected to happen in this election.
Abe will interpret a big win as an endorsement of his policies, especially his economic policies, though this may be qualified by what is expected to be a record low turnout.
The election, coming on the heels of Japan falling into recession, has given the opposition some ammunition to complain that ‘Abenomics’ has not been working.
One element of Abe’s policies, the empowerment of women, is not reflected in this election, where only about 17 per cent of major party candidates are women.
So the Japanese Diet seems on track to retain its unenviable record as one of the most unrepresentative for women, leading to some experts calling for a gender quota system.
Last Mod: 07 Aralık 2014, 12:10