23 August 2009

Election campaigns in Japan and the Tokyo temptation

Is Japan a true democratic country? Why the Japanese appear less enthusiastic about the election process and the national politics? What are the priorities and concerns of the Japanese voters for the upcoming parliamentary elections? These are few of the numerous questions that often bother someone who is interested in Japan and the Japanese politics. The first question that whether Japan is a democratic country may sound like a caustic remark because, like many other democratic nations, elections are held in Japan routinely and the country has a representative style parliament. But, the outcome has always been a one-party rule for the last five decades. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan has been in power now for almost 55-years (except for a brief 10-months period when the main opposition party, Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ, came into power). In a week time, on August 30th, Japan is all set for the parliamentary polls. And, as the tide finally seems to have turned against the ruling Japanese conservatives, lets discuss some of the key issues of the next week parliamentary elections.

In a democracy, the elections allow ordinary citizens to swap those at the apex of power to bring out changes needed for the society. But, why this has not been the case with Japan? One can cite two reasons for this: either the ruling party LDP has performed exceptionally well over the years or the main opposition party DPJ has failed to give the impression to the voters that they are capable of out-smarting LDP in terms of performance. And the truth is somewhere between these two notions. In August 1993, the only non-LDP government in Japan since 1955 came into existence after the LDP suffered an unprecedented defeat in the lower house elections. The current head of the DPJ, Yukio Hatoyama, served as vice chief cabinet secretary in the ministry. However, the governments led by Hosokawa and Tsutomu Hata, lasted only a combined total of 10-months, as the then-Japan Socialist Party left the coalition, destroying its majority in the parliament and impelling it out of power. This coalition politics, where every partner has its own policies and agenda, was just discarded by the Japanese voters in subsequent years. Besides this, Japanese people always viewed LDP as a party synonymous with Japan’s rise, its magical growth and its postwar peace.

But, things have changed over the years. The ordinary Japanese citizens who used to see LDP as a synonymous to stability has given them three Prime Ministers in the last 3-years. The voters who credited LDP for the tremendous economic growth of Japan are overwhelmed by the unprecedented unemployment rate and recession as more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year (read this article). People believe that Japan's self-image as Asia's miracle has taken a huge blow due to the rise of China. The Japanese people have probably begun to feel that their country is not getting the space it deserves on the global map in the geo-political affairs. Therefore, in the upcoming elections, one can sense the wind of change blowing in favor of the democrats. Also, the main opposition coalition led by DPJ is trying to come up with innovative manifesto and promise of a all-out change. They are doing their best to reach out to the voters through launching of massive campaigns as well as the televised debates. I was in the city of Yokohama a couple of days before where I happen to attend an election-show. Below is an image from that campaign in which the DPJ- supported mayoral candidate Hayashi Fumiko is giving an electoral speech (The election to select a successor to the outgoing Yokohama Mayor is also scheduled to be held on August 30 alongside the parliamentary election).

What are the major issues in this election? Well, on a broader scale, the most dominating issues are economic, political and environmental. There is a growing sense of insecurity in the old Japanese voters as they are worried about the future of their nestlings. I could feel the desperation for a change during a conversation with one of my Japanese friends when he said, "The leaders appears to be only obsessed with holding onto power and probably they are not seriously thinking about the nation's pride." It seems that the democrats (DPJ) might have borrowed the theme of change from the U.S. President Obama’s election campaign. However, they are advocating for a change in the relationship with the United States. The party promises to reform the Japanese foreign policy with a vision of independent stand in the world affairs, in contrast to the current policy that favors Washington. On the economy front, people are afraid of job layoffs and escalating unemployment rates. Japan is one of the world's fastest aging countries thanks to the negative growth rate of its population. There are millions of old people on the verge of retirement. A scandal in the government-run pension system, when alarmingly large volume of files were mishandled, has caused anger particularly among the senior citizens. On the environmental aspect, the main opposition is in favor of cutting down the carbon emission level by 25% (from its 1990 target) till 2020. However, this has created more buzz in the political galleries. The ruling LDP believes that it would not be easy to attain the said reduction level in carbon emissions because it would harm the already stressed economy. The point worth mentioning here is that Japan is one of the front-runners in terms of cutting down of the green-house gas emissions.

The opinion polls are suggesting a clear advantage to the opposition DPJ. But, can a party that has only sat on the opposition's bench form a stable government? Can they eliminate the difference between saying and doing, if come to power? The Newsweek once wrote that "The Democratic Party of Japan often resembles the country's soccer team: it has plenty of talent, yet always manages to blow its best shot." Nonetheless, LDP or DPJ, whoever comes to the power, the main agenda should be to get the country out of recession and to bring smile back on the people's face, to remain committed for cutting down of the greenhouse gas emissions and to devise a policy that would restore Japan's pride as the miracle of Asia. As a well-wisher of Japan, I hope that whichever party looses the election, let the democracy win on the 30th August. Because, winning or loosing is just a political game and, democracy is much important than an election.

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AP said...

Thanks for a comprehensive article on Japanese politics and forthcoming elections. It's pity that even a country like Japan is facing political instability (three Prime Ministers in the last 3-years). Liberal Democratic Party failed to give a full term government despite of majority in the house. Anyway, thank you for giving information about the main issues of these elections. keep it up.

Sujan said...

OMG very constructive analysis.......wow!!!!!!
I feel like going through the column of daily newspaper.......subarashi. Thanks for bringing such information about japanese politics to our knowledge and at the right time.

Dilip Acharya on August 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM said...

Before reading this post I knew noting about Japanese political system and major political parties, there.

Thanks to this post, now I feel, I can also talk about LDP and DPJ :).

But no matter how well they (LDP) have performed, a long time span of more than half a century seems quite long :) isn't it?

Anonymous said...

A good and timely article. It is interesting to know a foreigner's perspective regarding the Japanese elections.

Although it seems implausible at this point of time (as only one week left for the polls), there are still calls for the current Prime minister Aso to resign or be replaced before the election. But for a party that has changed leaders three times in three years, the idea of presenting yet another face is not appealing, against what seems like a united opposition party sensing a certain victory. The LDP seems to have lost all its cards as time is quickly running out. Seems, history is waiting to be made for sure!

Basanta on August 28, 2009 at 10:57 AM said...

Thank you Deependrajee for this very comprehensive post on Japanese politics. Even us foreigners living in the outermost periphery of Japanese society feel that Japan needs some drastic changes in its politics and state mechanism. Japan needs change even if DPJ and the opposition coalition can't dethrone LDP.
Despite its big contribution, Japan's international stature is not big. Countries like Norway have much bigger diplomatic clout in world affairs. As a Japan lover, I would like to see Japan's voice stronger in world affairs.
And as you have analyzed so well, Japan has a pile of domestic problems too to solve.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for appreciating this post. I am glad that you find it interesting and informative.

Yes, Dilip ji, you are right. I agree that no matter how well the LDP has performed, a period of more than half a century is indeed quite long.

Basant ji, I too feel the same way as you do regarding Japan's international stature which has suffered badly in the recent years.

खुल्लामन्च on September 7, 2009 at 7:27 AM said...

Wonderful Article, DeependraG. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ours is an envionment where evil is perceived to be rewarded while good is punished. As with everything the Gods have a reason for creating this perception::::
People who fall on the good side of the good/evil scale have more favor, and when they do something wrong the Gods punish them BECAUSE THEY WANT THEM TO LEARN. The Gods want them to receive this feedback in hope they make corrections and begin to behave appropriately. The Gods DON'T like evil and refuse to grant this feedback.
EVERYBODY pays for what they do wrong, only evil people must wait until their next life before they will experience the wrath of the Gods, manifested in their reincarnation as a lower form of life into environments with increased/enhanced temptations.
Sadly, this allows the Gods to position this perception of evil rewarded as temptation, one which they use as an EXTREMELY effective corruptor.

Both Africa and the Medittereanean are regions which have sexual issues. This is a sign of morbid disfavor once you understand that females are the God's favored gender. Muhammad's (Mohammed's) polygamy halfway through his life as a prophet was preditory. Now a huge percentage of Muslims believes in male superiority and that the abuse of women is God's will. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in Africa. Black misogyny is the most eggregious example in the recent past.
Black member size is temptation to a predisposed population.
The patriarchal cancer spread throughout Europe because of Christianity, of which the majority of policy makers were Italian men. Expect the largest landowner in Europe and the continent's original superpower also played a major role in African slavery.

Militancy in Africa is consistant with the Iraqi example, as was slavery and the KKK here in America:::Fear enforces proper behavior. Without it we see what happens as a result of gross/morbid disfavor:::::AIDS, crack babies, dead young men in gangland retaliation killings. This is the purpose behind many black's historical tendancy towards resistance.
The same principle was true in Europe and throughout the world for centuries:::People whom lived under iron fists were conditioned to think the right way. As a result they experienced higher numbers of children accend into heaven because they were taught to think and behave appropriately, which they passed on to their children. Our preditory envionment of "freedom" was the primary purpose the Gods had when implimenting this strategy that is the United States, one which they used to spred the cancer of democracy and westernization throughout the world. And the Gods use this tool that is America to prey on the disfavored both at home and abroad:::Much like the ghetto, America in general experiences a heightened level of temptation due to the people's disfavor.

Even the Old Testiment is not to be taken literally, but the Gods do offer clues throughout to help the disfavored:::The apple is a tool of temptation used to corrupt Adam and Eve and cast them out of the Garden of Eden.
There is another lesson to be learned from this passage, and it is quite similar to the vailing issue and the discourse over women's attire which ultimately died in the 70s:::Women are responsible for and control the fate of mankind.

Think about what I say. Consider what I teach. Society is going to become disturbingly ugly as we approach the Apocalypse due to spiralling, runaway disfavor.
I do not know when this will occurr, but it is the God's way to grant some time before they end on Planet Earth.
Make the decision to always be good and never look back. Until you do this technology will employ tactics to test your resolve:::Ridicule, beligerance, doubt and refusal to abandon what people perceive to be their "investment".
Pray daily. Think appropriately. Too many are confident, unaware of the God's awesome powers or their status as antients. Others may fall prey to their positioning.
Be humbled, God-fearing and beware of the God's temptations, for everyone is tested to evaluate their worthiness.
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