Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to a landslide victory in the snap election held on December 14, 2014, winning a majority of 291 seats out of 475 in the lower house of Japan’s parliament, the Diet. This success was mainly due to the unpreparedness and general disarray of the Opposition parties, rather than any great enthusiasm for the LDP; it effectively won by default, with a record low voter turnout of only 52.63%. The election was promoted as a referendum on Abe’s economic policies, popularly termed ‘Abenomics’. Abe pledged to delay another raise of the consumption tax until 2017, after the last increase from 5 to 8% in April 2014 tipped the economy into recession. He is likely to continue the core policies of Abenomics: massive quantitative easing, and fiscal stimulus spending. There is speculation though that the LDP will continue to delay the more complex and wide-ranging ‘third arrow’ of proposed structural reforms. Enjoying a supermajority in the Diet, Abe will be able to pursue his treasured goal of reinterpreting the constitution, to allow Japan to participate in ‘collective self-defence’ with its allies. The Abe government will continue to increase defence spending, and begin arms exports. Abe’s decisive win entrenches his hold on the LDP leadership, and secures his government towards the next lower house election, now due in 2018. The challenge remains whether a reboot of Abenomics can see Japan confront ongoing deflationary stagnation, and long-term population decline.
Craig Mark, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
Stream: Japanese Studies
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