Friday, December 3

Japan’s Ruling Party Prepares for Bloody Victory in Weekend Elections | Japan

The party that has ruled Japan almost without interruption for nearly seven decades is expected to win Sunday’s general elections, but the new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, could emerge with his authority damaged.

Kishida, who became chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last month, hopes to capitalize on the dramatic drop in coronavirus cases in Japan in recent weeks and engage voters with promises of a “new capitalism” that he will redistribute. wealth to the United States. the country’s struggling middle class.

But he will not have been encouraged by polls released on Friday that suggested the PLD could lose its majority in the powerful lower house in Sunday’s elections, although the coalition government he leads will almost certainly survive.

Both the Nikkei and Yomiuri newspapers showed that the PLD may struggle to maintain its single majority in the 465-seat chamber, making it more dependent on support from Komeito, a minor coalition party with ties to the Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai.

Kishida has set a coalition target for a 233-seat majority in the 465-seat lower house, well below the 276 seats the PLD held before the election was called.

Failure to go beyond that line would be detrimental to Kishida and potentially lead to the return of the “revolving door” leaders who spent brief periods in office before Shinzo Abe was elected in 2012 and served as prime minister until last year.

Kishida has vowed to address China’s growing military presence in the region and strengthen Japan’s ability to deter the threat posed by North Korean ballistic missiles.

But a weak performance by the PLD could strengthen the position of the more moderate Komeito and “act as a break in the conservative security policies popular among the right wing of the PLD,” said Tomoaki Iwai, professor of political science at Nihon University in Tokyo.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which has formed an alliance with the Japanese Communist Party and other opposition groups, leads in more than 50 single-member districts, but will need electoral district victories on the battlefield to add to its 110 seats.

“The collaboration of the opposition in the single-seat districts is remarkable. It means that the votes that were previously divided among several candidates now go to one, which gives the opposition a realistic chance against the LDP, ”said Iwai.

Kishida, a centrist known as an effective organizer but lacking charisma, hoped to benefit from a honeymoon period after beating three contenders, including popular former vaccine minister Taro Kono, in the recent race to become PLD president. , a post whose incumbent automatically becomes prime minister due to the party’s parliamentary majority.

That election came amid widespread public criticism of outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his enthusiastic support for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which many Japanese opposed out of fear of that delayed the departure from the pandemic country.

Kishida’s cabinet, however, will enter the election burdened by lackluster support and the prospect of another low turnout of just over 50%. According to the Nikkei poll, 47% of respondents said they supported the cabinet, while 32% said they did not.

Voter turnout in 2017 was 54% in the 2017 lower house elections, the second lowest in postwar Japan’s history. Youth turnout was particularly low, with only three in 10 people between the ages of 20 and 24 casting votes.

Naoya Oshikubo, a senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management, said he expected the PLD to “quickly pass the victory line” on Sunday, but added that Kishida’s time in office could be short.

“There is a possibility that his administration will be relatively short, like Suga’s, regardless of his victory on Sunday,” Oshikubo said in a note.

“Kishida’s approval ratings have only been 49%, which is low compared to previous prime ministers at the beginning of his term, as governments typically start their term with the highest level of support, which then declines. over time”.

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