Abe’s ma­neu­ver­ings for con­sti­tu­tional re­vi­sion may yet fail

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS - The au­thor is China Daily Tokyo bureau chief. cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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