Japanese voters support Koizumi
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Japanese voters support Koizumi"
The article reports the results of the by-election held on Sunday, 25th for three seats of the lower house, and that all three were won by the ruling LDP. The by-election was deemed significant in assessing the attitudes of people, as it being the first national-level voting since the lower house general election last November, and as a prelude to July's House of Councillors election. Aside from the fact that all three were won by the ruling LDP, indicating a certain level of support for the current government, there were similarities and differences among the three election districts, and recognizing them would provide further insight.
Among the similarities, the most notable was the composition of the candidates. There were three people running in all three districts. In each of them, one was a candidate from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with a formal support of Komeito the coalition partner, another was from the major opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and the third from the Japan Communist Party. The Communist Party, being a minor existence in Japan, had put up the candidates in accordance with their recent policy to do so in every major election, and it was not anticipated for their candidates to come close to winning -- which they did not. So in all three districtts, it was essentially a contest between the ruling coalition and the major opposition party.
The characteristics of the three districts differed in a number of respects. Kagoshima No5, where passing of the former representative was the cause of the by-election, had been known to be a domain of conservatives, which brought an easy win to the new LDP candidate by acquiring more than 80% of the vote. Hiroshima No5, where the cause of the by-election was also the death of the former diet member, was somewhat different. The winner came in by a smaller margin, getting 51% of the vote while the runner-up of DPJ won 46%. This was said to be due to the more liberal mentality of the region, and certain tactical disunity among the conservative camp.
But Saitama No8 was arguably the most interesting. The by-election was called because of the resignation of the former representative, a member of the LDP, following a vote-buying scandal involving himself and a number of local city councilors. As such, and considering the district being rather liberal in climate and somewhat volatile in voting behaviors, it seemed at first there would be no chance for the LDP to win.
LDP, recognizing it to be an uphill battle, adopted a new method, unforeseen in the conservative party's history, to recruit a candidate from applicants open to the public. The idea brought a young lawyer to the competition, and, to the surprise of many people, especially of the DPJ members and supporters, won against a veteran DPJ politician.
Political implication is enormous. Considering the cause of the by-election and the qualification of the candidates as noted above, and the fact that a number of small scandals surfaced for the LDP members recently, the victory could only be interpreted as the present Koizumi government is indeed supported by a large chunk of people.
That said, there is a serious concern about the election from a different point of view. It is that the turnout recorded the historical lows in all three districts. Kagoshima No5 was 54.9% and Hiroshima No5 was 55.5%, lower by 10.3% and 9.0% respectively compared to that of the general election held in November last year. And the most striking was the Saitama No8 district, which showed a turnout of mere 35.2%, lower by 19.7% compared to the last general election.
The cause and implications of such a low turnout needs to be thoroughly analyzed. But there already are speculations. One comment suggests that the low turnout was a result of the trend toward realization a two-party system in Japan, as touted by many commentators upon observing the results of the general election last November when the DPJ dramatically increased its number of seats in the diet. The suggestion goes on to say that as the DPJ became aware of their responsibilities in depicting the policies of the country, they became closer in the methodology to that of the LDP, which made politics unexciting to many people.
Whatever the cause, the sustained trend of ever-lower turnout on elections should not be taken lightly.