Koizumi's coalition keeps majority in Parliament, but opposition gains
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Koizumi's coalition keeps majority in Parliament, but opposition gains "
(Gary Schaefer, AP) CBC News
It is not easy to see who really won the general election held on Sunday. Although the previous ruling coalition, led by Mr Koizumi's LDP, acquired an easy majority, the largest opponent, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), gained by 40 seats, a 30% increase. Some say it was a victory for the previous rulers by winning 275 seats out of 480. Others point to the fact that as the number is lower than the 287 the coalition had immediately before the dissolution, and that the large gain by the DPJ is a huge step forward historically, though may not have satisfied a majority this time around.
A couple of facts may worth noting here. The LDP itself won 237 seats at this election, compared to 233 the last time. Also, immediately after the results were announced, two of the winners who ran independent, or unaffiliated, joined the LDP to bring up the number to 239, making the number of total coalition forces to 277. And there are still possibilities for such minor adjustments in the next few days.
While there could be reasons for the LDP and the DPJ to commend themselves, it is easy to locate the losers. The New Conservative Party, who is a member of the ruling coalition with the LDP and Komei-to, won only 9, down from 20, with the leader losing a seat. This, aside from the members of the party and close supporters, should not affect the political scene very much as it has been a small figure in the arena. Very significant, however, is The Social Democratic Party, which has been called the Social Party until recently whose policy had placed socialism at its aim, won only 6 seats, down from 18. The leader of the party, Ms Doi, a long time veteran and a strong proponent of socialism, lost in the single seat constituency, barely saved to maintain a seat in the proportional representation block. And the Japan Communist Party, which has honored the doctrine of communism since almost a century ago, has been reduced to 9, down from 20.
Although the Communist Party blamed the single-seat districting system adopted a decade ago has placed smaller parties such as theirs to disadvantage, and the leaders of the Socialist Party in practical terms threatened the people that Japan is going to be involved in a war if they lose, it is clear that voters did not buy the doctrine and propaganda of Communism and Socialism, where not many people would care to make a distinction between the two anyway.
In any case, Mr Koizumi, as he gets appointed the Prime Minister, shall expedite the process of structural reform, because that was the policy the competing DPJ has been advocating to bring them a stronger support, and perhaps to an extent with irony, that that is what Mr Koizumi has been endeavoring to promote for the past two and a half years against resistances from vested interests.
What is worrisome is the low turnout, at 59.86%, the second lowest after WWII, next to 59.65% recorded in 1996. The detailed breakdown is not yet announced, but it has been a recent trend for the younger generation to stay away from the polls. There have been suggestions to adopt a system to force people to vote, such as the one in Australia, but apparently Japanese people still subscribe to the interpretation that the notion of free vote includes the right not to vote. There is no clear answer to the issue, but it is somewhat spooky, as it seems the trend is becoming universal among civilized countries, in view of sustaining a healthy democracy.