The snap election was called by Prime MinisterShinzo Abe in September. But it’s only now that there’s more news about it. The early election will be held on Sunday, October 22. The Japanese Prime Minister said the he was looking for a fresh mandate to surmount what he termed as a ”national crisis” due to North’s Korea’s escalating threats.
What goes on in Japan does not concern the West too much, because Japanese politics is complex and because the country gives the impression that its foreign affairs policy follows the lines of the United States.
The West, though, should not take the country for granted, as it’s the thirdlargest economy in the world, with a population of 127 million and the potential to be once again a military power of formidable strength.
Decision for early election
Prime Minister Abe’s decision to call for snap election was quite opportune. His approval rating has increased. Over the summer, his rating was at a record low. Likewise, the political opposition right now is in chaos. Experts are predicting that Prime Minister Abe will win the election. If this happens, he will be the longest serving leader of the country after the war.
The Japanese Prime Minister, who is from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is currently campaigning to have a tougher position on the country’s security as well as on North Korea. He is also putting emphasis on internal social policies. His campaign promise in the 2012 election to lift Japan’s economy looks like it’s not going to be met.
Although highly unpopular due to the disaster in Fukushima in 2011, the Prime Minister puts his full support on Japan returning to nuclear power.
The main challenger to the LPD is traditionally the Democratic Party but it fell apart in September and some of the former members became independent candidates. Others joined smaller political parties.
The main challenger of Prime Minister Abe right now is Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo. She has formed a new party, the Party of Hope or Kibo no To and launched it on September 28. Ms. Koike is presenting a conservative platform, outlining what she termed the 12 major issues in Japan. Called the ”12 Zeros” the opposition wants to eliminate the following:
- Nuclear power
- Hay fever
- Corporate cover ups or concealment
- Political donations/contributions from corporations
- Waiting list for day care/nursery school admissions
- Second hand smoke
- Food wastage
- Labor law violations/unethical business practices
- Crowded commuter trains
- Restrictions of movements for people with disabilities
- Utility poles
- Putting down of stray animals/unwanted pets
Governor Koike initially had strong public support but it’s now faltering. This is due mainly to lack of time for the party to fully prepare to mount a campaign and partly because she does not want to run against the incumbent Prime Minister. Many people also believe that some of her policies are naïve and impractical.
Poll opinions during the past weeks indicated that Prime Minister Abe is taking the lead, with his party taking about 300 of the 465 seats in the lower house. More than 30 seats seem to belong to Komeito, Mr. Abe’s junior coalition partner. With these numbers, the Prime Minister’s government can maintain the two-thirds majority they need to make changes in the country’s constitution.
Moreover, even the Hope Party is backing the Prime Minister’s proposal to revise Article 9 of their Constitution. It was a law drafted by the United States after Japan’s defeat in WWII. It prohibits the country’s military to use force, except when defending themselves, when resolving international conflicts. Because of the increased threats from North Korea, the Prime Minister wants quick deployment of Japanese troops in international missions together with the country’s allies.