Ja­pan op­po­si­tion too weak to take power

Lesotho Times - - International -

TOKYO — Ja­pan’s main op­po­si­tion party, its im­age still tar­nished two years after los­ing power, isn’t even pre­tend­ing to have a shot at oust­ing Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s coali­tion in a 14 De­cem­ber elec­tion. It does hope to give him a black eye, though.

Mr Abe’s rul­ing bloc is vir­tu­ally as­sured of keep­ing power in a vote he has dubbed a ref­er­en­dum on his “Abe­nomics” recipe to end en­trenched de­fla­tion and gen­er­ate growth.

But whether the Ja­panese leader’s gam­ble to go to the polls after just two years pays off by bol­ster­ing his clout de­pends on how many seats the Demo­cratic Party of Ja­pan (DPJ) and smaller groups can win away from his Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party (LDP).

Sce­nar­ios range from the LDP and its part­ner, the Komeito party, adding a bit to the two-thirds majority they had be­fore Mr Abe called the poll, to the LDP los­ing 40 or more seats in a show­ing that would un­der­mine his abil­ity to push painful eco­nomic re­forms and con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies such as eas­ing the lim­its of a paci­fist con­sti­tu­tion on the mil­i­tary.

For the first time since its found­ing in 1998, the DPJ is not run­ning enough can­di­dates to win a majority of the 475 seats up for grabs on its own. Ja­panese me­dia said the party was field­ing 198 can­di­dates.

DPJ lead­ers and can­di­dates ad­mit vot­ers are scarred.

“The dis­ap­point­ment with the DPJ wasn’t due to poli­cies but gov­er­nance - in­sta­bil­ity, in­fight­ing, de­fec­tions and three pre­miers in three years,” said Manabu Ter­ata, who was an aide to one of those prime min­is­ters and is now seek­ing to re­gain his seat in the northeastern pre­fec­ture of Akita.

“We haven’t shown ... that we were able to im­prove and strengthen our gov­er­nance as a party,” he said at the party’s Akita head­quar­ters last week, adding the DPJ might win about 80 seats but that 100 would be a stretch.

Me­dia polls show the LDP with a hefty lead in pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion blocks where vot­ers cast bal­lots by party, which ac­count for 180 mem­bers. Another 295 mem­bers will be elected from dis­tricts where vot­ers se­lect can­di­dates, five fewer than in 2012 after elec­toral re­forms.

But the Democrats could ben­e­fit from suc­cess­ful talks with ri­vals, such as the rightlean­ing Ja­pan In­no­va­tion Party, to avoid split­ting the vote in sin­gle-mem­ber dis­tricts by co­or­di­nat­ing can­di­da­cies. Op­po­si­tion ri­valry helped the LDP to the big win that re­turned Mr Abe to power in 2012.

A re­spectable per­for­mance could help the DPJ per­suade vot­ers it can again be­come a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the LDP by pro­mot­ing a re­align­ment of op­po­si­tion forces. Al­ready the DPJ has ab­sorbed de­fec­tors from smaller par­ties as well as some from a mini-party that dis­banded.

But a limp show­ing could set the stage for more chaos.

“If cur­rent in­di­ca­tions hold, the LDP is go­ing to lose very few seats and might even gain a few,” said Columbia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Gerry Cur­tis. “The op­po­si­tion will be in even more dis­ar­ray and it will be a long time be­fore real com­pet­i­tive pol­i­tics re­turns to Ja­pan.”

— Reuters.

Ja­pan’s Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe (cen­tre) who is also leader of the rul­ing LDP, raises his fists with party mem­bers and sup­port­ers dur­ing his of­fi­cial cam­paign kick-off on Tues­day.

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