Monday, December 17, 2012
Japan elects 7th Prime Minister in six years
On Sunday, Japanese voters re-elected a former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to the highest post by giving the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a landslide victory. After three years in opposition, the LDP won 293 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament. As leader of the LDP, Abe, who was Prime Minister for one year in 2006-2007, will take up the reins again.
According to the Japan Today news agency, "The results were a sharp rebuke for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan, reflecting widespread unhappiness for its failure to keep campaign promises and get the stagnant economy going during its three years in power."
As to possible consequences of the election, one likely change in agenda stems from the LDP being the most pro-nuclear power party in Japan. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which crippled a nuclear power station and spread radiation across a swath of the landscape, Japan's government was planning to move away from nuclear power. That direction may now be reviewed.
Also, incoming Prime Minister Abe "is talking tough toward China, and the LDP platform calls developing fisheries and setting up a permanent outpost in the Senkaku/Daioyu islands, a move that would infuriate Beijing."
The article goes on to note that the "LDP will stick with its long-time partner New Komeito, backed by a large Buddhist organization, to form a coalition government, party officials said. Together, they will control more than 320 seats, NHK projected - a two-thirds majority that would make it easier for the government to pass legislation ..."
Abe himself was sober as he talked with the press on Monday. "Abe told a packed news conference ... that Japan is facing a series of crises - from the weak economy to security issues to reconstruction after the tsunami disaster. "Our mission is to overcome these crises," he said. He said his party's victory was less a vote of confidence from voters and more a repudiation of the "mistaken leadership" of the Democrats. "The public will be scrutinizing us."
So, we'll watch Japan over the next several months. It has the 3rd largest economy in the world, behind the US and China, and a major player along the Pacific Rim.