Saturday, November 24, 2012

Right Wing Parties to Make Inroads in Japanese Election

Politics makes strange bedfellows. For example, consider Tokyo's popular former governor Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka. The former merged his Sunrise Party with the Japan Restoration Party (JRP) of the latter, despite serious policy differences between the two, such as on the future of nuclear energy in Japan. After the merger, the elderly Ishihara was appointed the president of the party which was led until then by Hashimoto. The JRP, the only national party in Japan which is based outside Tokyo is hoping to be a serious contender in the December 16 election for the House of Representatives in the Japanese Diet.

Shintaro Ishihara in 2006, U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam York, Wikimedia Commons

Third parties such as the JRP have been able to exploit the vacuum created by the unpopularity of both the leading parties, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Despite being unsatisfied with the three year rule of the DPJ, the majority of the electorate do not wish to see a return of the LDP. The LDP ruled Japan almost continuously from the 1950s, except for a brief period in 1993-1994 when they lost power, until it was decisively defeated by the DPJ.

Opinion polls suggest that the the DJP and LDP unable to muster even half of the votes between them and more than one third of the voters are still undecided on whom to vote. Therefore, the third parties have a lot to gain from the elections. Many of the small parties are on the political right, seeking the revitalization of Japan. However, except this declared ambition, there is little consensus between them. This has created apprehension over the stability of the government which will be formed after the elections.

However, with the left wing parties largely marginalized, the lower House of the Diet which will be elected will pull Japan's politics to the right. The increased role of the nationalists such as Ishihara, who has a vehemently anti-China policy, will not be conducive towards diffusing regional tensions.

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