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【#199】Implications of Landslide Ruling Party Victory in Tokyo

Koichi Endo / 2013.06.26 (Wed)


June 24, 2013

      In the June 23 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, won a landslide victory, with all their 82 candidates (59 from the LDP and 23 from the New Komeito) elected to far exceed a majority of 64 seats. The Democratic Party of Japan saw the number of its seats fall sharply from 43 to 15, plunging into the position of the fourth biggest party in the assembly. While the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) managed to win only two seats, Your Party boosted the number of its seats to seven. The Japanese Communist Party doubled the number from eight to 17, gaining the right to propose legislation. The voter turnout came to 43.5%, the second lowest ever.
      The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election was positioned as a run-up to the House of Councilors election in July. What are implications of the election results for the coming Upper House election?

Possible Political realignment after July election
      The first implication is the revitalization of the ruling LDP-New Komeito coalition. This means that the LDP-New Komeito regime was fixed. Unless the LDP single-handedly wins a majority in the 242-seat Upper House (which is difficult, but not impossible), enhanced coalition may mean that key LDP-planned policy measures including constitutional amendments would fail to be enacted without approval by the New Komeito which its leader Natsuo Yamaguchi characterized as a “deterrent against the Abe administration.” In order to check the New Komeito, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to ally with third parties. As the Nippon Ishin no Kai is now set back, Abe is required to revise his alliance strategy. In an apparent indication of such revision, Abe has recently touched on the possible cooperation with some DPJ lawmakers in promoting constitutional amendments.
      The second implication comes from a decisive decline of the DPJ. In the two latest national elections (the 2010 Upper House and 2012 Lower House elections), voters refused to qualify the DPJ as a governing party. The Tokyo Metropolitan election results might have denied the DPJ's raison d'etre even as the largest opposition party. Voters turned their back on the DPJ that has turned left and become a party that disagrees for the sake of disagreeing, like the Japan Socialist Party in the past. Voters feeling sympathetic with leftists might have concluded the JCP as better than the DPJ. Under the present leadership, it would be difficult for the DPJ to reconstruct itself. The DPJ may suffer a crushing defeat in the coming Upper House election. Among DPJ lawmakers, ambitious persons should choose to break up the DPJ for political realignment, instead of reconstructing the party.

High voter turnout could allow LDP to win Upper House majority
      Thirdly, the Abe-led LDP should not ignore the low voter turnout in the Tokyo Metropolitan election. In last December's Lower House election, the LDP won 16.62 million votes against 17.5 million votes for the third pole consisting of the Nippon Ishin no Kai and Your Party. Now that the Nippon Ishin no Kai is set back, how the LDP win the coming Upper House election is likely to depend on moves of the 17.5 million voters. If the voter turnout falls with most of them abstaining, the LDP-New Komeito coalition may win a modest victory. If Prime Minister Abe demonstrates his attractiveness, however, the LDP may win an overwhelming victory to get an Upper House majority single-handedly. The modest LDP-New Komeito victory has been almost secured even under Abe's "safe driving" election tactics that avoids controversial campaign promises. The latter chance remains in the balance.

Koichi Endo is Director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Takushoku University.