UPDATE/ Analysts: This was a 'rejection' election

December 17, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Political analysts say many of the voters who ended the Liberal Democratic Party's reign three years ago voted in an unfocused manner this time, a pattern that allowed the party to surge back into power.

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed Jun Saito, a former member of the Lower House and a former assistant professor of political economic science at Yale University, Masahito Tadano, a professor of constitutional law at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of Law, and Noriko Hama, a professor of international economy at the Doshisha Business School of Doshisha University.

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SAITO: This election illustrated a negative aspect of the single-seat constituency system. We might call it one in which voters did not actively choose the outcome.

Voters who were unsatisfied with the Democratic Party of Japan's performance in government switched to the LDP.

Additionally, the many newly emerged third-force parties were competing for unaffiliated voters, whose diffuse votes served to lift the LDP.

On top of that, many independent voters refrained from casting a ballot because they had no idea whom to vote for. That low turnout further boosted results for the LDP and New Komeito, both of which enjoy solid organized support.

I wonder how much energy the badly defeated DPJ has left. If Japan's two-party model collapses, there could be no alternative to the LDP in the future, in the event of mismanagement. I will be watching the Japan Restoration Party, which gained strength, to see whether it might become an alternative.

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TADANO: The results show voters rejected the ruling party for its disappointing performance but did not actively choose a replacement.

It is easier to reject one than to choose another carefully. A similar phenomenon has been identified in France, which has had regular administration changes.

One of the main factors behind the DPJ "no" vote was insufficient information to make a positive choice.

I got the impression that parties deliberated their campaign pledges hastily. They should work them out in more detail in the contest for the Upper House in the summer of 2013.

And voters need to take the long view when they assess the government and party choices. This would stabilize politics.

Now that the LDP has had such a strong win, it may be able to amend Japan's Constitution. But if that happens, the amendment would be pursued by lawmakers who themselves were elected by a system that the Supreme Court has ruled to be in a state of unconstitutionality (over the disparity in the value of votes). This means there would be considerable doubt over the validity of revisions.

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HAMA: The results show that voters took out their frustration with the DPJ, which suffered from repeated infighting and was unable to rein in the influence exerted by bureaucrats.

The results do not mean that voters judged the LDP as an opposition party that had the right answers.

I don’t think they entirely trust the LDP, with Shinzo Abe at the helm, as he has made a number of remarks that are quite radical. I feel a chill running down the spine when I think about the future of Japan’s democracy.

Even though the economy is not growing significantly, businesses that place a high value on people are increasingly making their presence felt. However, the LDP is trying to revive a country awash with construction projects.

If the imbalance between pork-barrel spending and the actual economy grows, another election could be in the offing that brings about yet another power change.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Noriko Hama (Asahi himbun file photo)

Noriko Hama (Asahi himbun file photo)

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  • Noriko Hama (Asahi himbun file photo)
  • Jun Saito (Asahi himbun file photo)
  • Masahito Tadano (Asahi himbun file photo)

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