The Japanese 2012 election on December 16th saw the defeat of the centre-right Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), returning the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power, with its leader Shinzo Abe returning as Prime Minister for a second term. However, the election exposed the extent of voter alienation, the weak sense of party identity, and general disconnectedness with politics among Japanese society.
Despite a sweeping electoral victory for the LDP, the results delivered by the electoral system hides the relatively low voter turnout, being more a vote against the DPJ, reflecting widespread disillusionment with the previous Noda Government, rather than being an enthusiastic endorsement for the LDP. This is reflected in the divide between LDP policy and popular opinion, on issues such as nuclear power, consumption tax, and changes to the role of the Self-Defence Forces.
The fate of smaller parties also demonstrates a sense of wider disappointment with electoral politics in Japan. For example, the third largest party, the ultranationalist Japan Restoration Party, was formed from an amalgamation by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, with former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara; however, Hashimoto's policy backflips, to accommodate Ishihara following the alliance, generated a great deal of public cynicism. Such political manoeuvrings have further generated disillusionment, as these blatantly opportunistic alliances were at the expense of consistent, well-thought out policy positions.
The Upper House elections due in July 2013 will therefore test whether disillusionment with Japanese politics will continue, as the various political parties reposition themselves for the electoral contest.
Craig Mark, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
Stream: Arts & Humanities
This paper is part of the ACAH2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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