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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #229: July 8, 2004

The stakes in Japan

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"The stakes in Japan"
The Straits Times Editorial


The editorial is a last minute analysis on Japan's Upper House election coming up on Sunday 11th. There could obviously be different views on the way the factors affecting the elections are treated and emphasized in the article. But overall, this is a well-written observation of the present status.

It might, however, worth reviewing the basics at this juncture for analyzing the results and assessing the outcome of the election, because the media in general, especially as the election date draws near, tend to relate every event to the election without placing them in perspective with the real issues, and try to find quick assumptions in terms of "win or lose" without defining what they really mean.

The election is to choose the members of the Upper House where half of it -- 121 out of total 242 -- is elected alternately every three years. What must be noted here is that it is the Lower House that chooses the Prime Minister. (To be more precise, each of the Upper and Lower Houses select a candidate, and if different persons are chosen in each house, the one nominated in the Lower House takes precedence and becomes the Prime Minister.) As the composition of the Lower House, where the ruling coalition holds the majority, -- LDP 249 and Komeito 34 out of total 480 -- would not be affected by the results of the Sunday election, there is no possibility for the oppositions to take hold of the government even if they win a majority in the Upper House - the possibility itself too outrageous to be seriously considered by the critics.

On the other hand, the by-law of the Liberal Democratic Party states that the term of its presidency is for three years. Mr Koizumi won the party election in September last year, so his tenure remains for two more years. Of course, there is no legal requirement for the leader of the ruling party to become the Prime Minister, but it is difficult to justify and impractical to adopt any other format.

Accordingly, no matter what the result of the coming election, Mr Koizumi is to remain as the Prime Minister, leading the coalition of the LDP and the New Komeito.

Such is a statutory analysis, however boring it may be. But, in real live politics, anything can happen.

If the ruling coalition wins a comfortable majority, then nothing should happen. Mr Koizumi will be considered to have won the confidence of the voters. But if the LDP "loses," i.e. not acquire the volume of support many "feel" it appropriate, political pressures could mount to the extent where Mr Koizumi would be deemed to have lost leadership. The problem is, however, there seems to be no one prepared to succeed Mr Koizumi even if he resigns at his will. While the Prime Minister needs to be backed by the LDP due of the composition of the Lower House as explained above, every faction leader within the LDP seems to have given up grabbing presidency in the immediate future, and to hibernate until Mr Koizumi's term is up.

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