Abe’s maneuverings for constitutional revision may yet fail
The last time Japan’s ruling coalition of Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito lost the majority in the Tokyo assembly was in July 2009. Following the loss, then not-so-popular Japanese prime minister Taro Aso dissolved the lower house and called a general election, in which the opposition Democratic Party won a landslide victory and ended the LDP’s half-century rule in Japan.
History may not repeat itself always. It does offer lessons, however. The Tokyo assembly election has for decades been seen as a bellwether of Japan’s general election. On July 2, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s fledging party Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoties First party) and its allies won 79 seats in the 127-member city assembly, bringing the LDP’s majority to an end. The LDP’s seat share dropped from 57 to 23 — the lowest ever.
On the surface, the assembly election was a referendum on Koike, who was elected the city’s first female governor last year. But many view the poor showing of the LDP as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration.
Abe and his ministers, who, many voters say, are arrogant, have in recent years invited public anger. Many even say Abe abused his power to help his close friend’s educational institution to open a veterinary school in one of Japan’s strategic special zones. And the extremely heavy-handed approach of the LDP and Komeito in the parliament, where they have two-thirds majority, has resulted in a social and political backlash.
Abe doesn’t need to call an election until December 2018. Unlike Aso in 2009, he still has some cards to play. He is expected to reshuffle the Cabinet and LDP leadership in August or September in the hope of quelling public anger.
Abe is likely to fail in his attempt to amend the Constitution, as any amendment should be approved by both houses of parliament, and put through a referendum.