LDP narrowly wins key by-election
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"LDP narrowly wins key by-election"
The Straits Times
It was a beautiful autumn day in the central part of Japan, when a by-election of the Upper House was held in Saitama prefecture, located immediately north of Tokyo where the southern part is largely inhabited by commuters to Tokyo who would be more interested in affairs of Tokyo.
The by-election was held on Sunday, to fill a vacancy in the upper house of the diet, a vacancy created as a result of the previous member of the House of Councilors quitting to seek the seat of the prefectural governor in August (by the way, he lost the gubernatorial election). As the sequence of events occurred so rapidly, candidates, as well was the people, were not quite prepared for the election. There were anxieties from the outset, therefore, that the turnout would be small.
Still, as it was considered to function as a leading indicator for the general election coming up on November 9, political parties campaigned for their candidates with the utmost thrust. Prime Minister Koizumi and the newly appointed popular secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Mr Abe, visited and toured through the prefecture a number of times, as well as the Democratic Party of Japan leader Mr Kan, and his new colleague Mr Ozawa.
The result was, as reported in the article, the candidate supported by the LDP, but with a very narrow margin, at 648,319 votes to 635,532, there was only two percent difference. Of course, as the rule of the game stipulates, the winner is the winner (remember the US Presidential election three years ago?), but this is hardly enough a margin for the LDP to claim that their policy have won people's support. But the fact of losing the game was a tough blow to the DPJ, as this was the first opportunity to test their acceptance among the people after their merger with the Liberal Party of Japan.
The trend of low turnouts at elections in general has been a concern among those involved, and those who believe the voter turnout is an indication of soundness of democracy. This time, at 27.52%, is very low indeed. One reason is, as stated above, that this was an unexpected election suddenly came about only a couple of months ago, and as the candidates were not prepared, people simply had no time to study the policies, and the personalities, of the candidate to cast a vote with confidence. Another reason suggested was that because it was a fine Sunday, people went out to enjoy the weather rather than to polling booths. (Japan's elections have been customarily held on Sundays so as not to disrupt business activities.)
The election thus was another occasion to exhibit the serious possibility of people losing confidence in political parties and politics in general, which may need to be addressed seriously in various sectors of the society as well as by politicians. As to the assessment of people's attitudes toward policies of the ruling and opposing parties, which has recently been publicized in the form of what was dubbed as 'manifestos', it could only be said that it is inconclusive at this point, and the jury is going to be out until the full blown general election of the Lower House of the diet, the House of Representatives, takes place on November 9.