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Number 1 Shimbun

Whatever happened to Japan’s opposition?

Whatever happened to Japan’s opposition?

by Gebhard Hielscher

An opinion poll taken by Asahi Shimbun in early October showed a support rate of 35 percent for the Abe cabinet. That was an improvement by two percentage points for the cabinet. The previous poll taken by the same paper in early September had shown a support rate of only 33 percent, the lowest support rate for Abe’s third cabinet recorded by the Asahi.

Regarding support for Abe’s LDP, the October Asahi poll still showed only 33 percent. But that, too, was an improvement over the September poll figure of only 30 percent.

In the actual Lower House election on October 22 the LDP won 284 seats and thus managed to exactly maintain the number of seats it had before the dissolution of the House. But since the Lower House Membership was reduced from 475 to 465, the 284 seats for Abe’s LDP actually amounted to a small gain for Abe and his party, who now command a comfortable absolute majority in the Lower House.

Abe’s coalition partner, Komeito, secured 29 seats, a loss of 5, but together the two parties still have a two- thirds majority. So Abe is heading a very stable government.

It is Japan’s opposition camp that is in a mess. True, Edano’s newly founded Constitutional Democratic Party (Rikken Minshuto) achieved a startling success by jumping from 15 to 55 seats. But it got significant help from the Communists, who withdrew their candidates in the local districts (and therefore plummeted from previously 21 to only 12 seats in the new House).

Edano’s party is replacing the Minshinto (Democratic Progressive Party) in the Lower House; this party had been briefly dissolved but was soon reestablished by its members in the Upper House, provincial or local assemblies and the trade union movement. Gaining the support of <Rengo>, Japan’s largest trade union center, will be the key for Edano’s Constitutional Democrats to become an influential force in shaping Japan’s political future.

Tokyo Governor Koike’s venture into national politics turned out to be a disaster. The 50 seats her Party of Hope (Kibo no To) won in the Lower House elections made it look as if her party were the second strongest opposition force in the House. But Koike herself called it a “complete defeat.” On top of that, she had also seriously damaged her reputation as governor. It will take persistent efforts over a long period oft time and concentrating exclusively on Tokyo’s local affairs to reestablish herself as a respected governor.

Gebhard Hielscher, a freelance journalist from Germany, has been an FCCJ member since 1969.

Published in: November 2017

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