Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Masses Have Spoken

A couple of years ago Prime Minister Koizumi dissolved the Lower House (a.k.a. the House of Representatives) because the Diet was hampering his (inexplicably obsessive) plan to privatize the postal system. He based the subsequent campaign of his party, the ill-named "Liberal Democratic Party" (which is neither liberal, democratic, nor a party) on his claim that politicians in the government were inhibiting his plan to cut government spending so he could lower taxes to boost the economy. To drive his point home even further, he personally assisted in the campaigns of several very popular female candidates, fielded as rivals to members of his own party that had opposed him (the so-called "postal rebels").

The voters subsequently handed the LDP its greatest landslide victory ever.

Unfortunately, what happened next was far from what the public expected. The Koizumi government threatened to cut spending on some government programs that were actually popular. Meanwhile, word came out that, while they were planning on reducing the federal income tax, they were also planning on raising the consumption tax to make up for the difference in revenue if not bolster it. That undercut some of the public's trust.

Koizumi then retired and was replaced by Prime Minister Abe, whose popularity seemed largely based on his patriotism. Unashamedly nationalist, he began putting forward revisions in governmental and educational policy that were intended to give people a more active and positive view of their country and its role in world affairs. His efforts to revise the constitution to allow for a true military able to participate in global peacekeeping efforts (as well as face increased threats from certain nearby countries) were controversial but generally went over well with the public. However, the various scandals that came out involving cronyism and misuse of public funds among his cabinet officials did NOT sit well with the people. Neither did the stagnation of economic policy that happened on his watch.

The latest election is now over. The LDP has just suffered the second worst election defeat in its history. The opposition now has a clear majority in the Upper House (a.k.a. the House of Councillors). Abe refuses to resign, but he is now a minority prime minister. He is also resisting the demands of the victorious party, the DPJ (the centrist Democratic Party of Japan) to dissolve the Lower House. He's going to be hard pressed to get anything done except behind the scenes through the bureaucratic channels. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

My English-language Japanese newspaper has always had an unashamedly right-wing slant, and the editor is complaining that the people have just handed North Korea a resounding election victory. My reaction to that is, "SOUR GRAPES!!!!" It's hard to say who, if anyone, is really going to benefit from the current situation. More likely it's just going to be a lot more political confusion. I'll be surprised if anything really does change.

4 Comments:

  • Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:20 AM  

  • Sounds familiar

    Also, the house passed a resolution calling for Japan to officially apologize for sex slavery and that can’t help him either.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2007/08/137_7484.html

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 1:47 AM  

  • I'm delighted. LDP came into being with mob and CIA money with many of its leaders right out of the war government (including Abe's grandfather who ran drugs in Manchuria for Gen. Tojo and was accused of being a Class A war criminal).

    I hope they will be unable to change the constitution for some time to come. Of course, I also expect some things to stay the same - like the corruption and financial boondoggles.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 10:56 AM  

  • It seems that no matter where you go, politicians seem to be in a state of moral decline. But maybe that is just the nature of politicians, to be corrupt.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 3:11 AM  

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