Japan Today



Politics Japanese style isn't all bad


Sound trucks to the left, sound trucks to the right and all blasting off over the heads of an apathetic crowd of weekend shoppers in Azabujuban: Welcome to politics Japanese style bang in the middle of Tokyo's number one constituency as the nation readies for next Sunday's lower house election.

"This is a tough election" warns the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's incumbent. Knowing full well that she is assured of victory but eager to avoid any hint of complacency, Miki Yamada tours the streets in her truck followed by a back-up embellished with pictures of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On the next corner, it's the turn of the man from the Japan Communist Party to warn of the massive dangers that face the nation if Abe were to push through his proposed constitutional reforms.

Not to be outdone by the professionals, the mini-party man is dressed in proper dark suit, white gloves and sergeant-major white banner draped from shoulder to waist. Toru Watanabe won't win but he knows how to make a decent speech, provided you enjoy reverential dollops of patriotism and warnings about the future unless the nation pulls its finger out and elects "the party for future generations."

Of course, the loudspeakers, posters and hand-waving form standard electioneering procedure in Japan before polling day but the cynicism should not be overdone. Yes, the political system has its manifest faults - just ask former minister Yuko Obuchi how it feels to be caught out over funding irregularities, though this isn't stopping her from running again in Gunma Prefecture. Yet even if the former star of the Liberal Democratic Party is following hallowed tradition by placing the blame on her former secretary, it's probable that levels of corruption have come down, and there is a huge range of candidates to choose from and turnout is pretty healthy by Western standards.

One question that might get a hearing, though, in the future is the question of permitting the prime minister of the day to continue to call an election at a date that suits him best. The massive built-in advantage that any leader has when he - not yet a she though money is being put on Obuchi sometime down the line - can pick election day might eventually come under scrutiny. Even Britain, the model for the parliamentary system that pioneers in Japan began introducing from the early 20th century, now has set terms for elections. Most voters in Britain reckon that the new arrangements are decidedly fairer and provided a prime minister can escape a vote of no confidence at Westminster, they know that after five years, there will be the opportunity to kick the guy out or let him or her carry on in office.

Surely it's more than time that the long-established incumbent bias in Japanese politics be overturned. Such a drastic change would have made it impossible for Abe to call next Sunday's election and far less likely that he would receive his now widely anticipated landslide victory. He and his party advisors craftily calculated that economic headaches and constitutional problems in the next 12 months could have destabilized his coalition rule, so he made the most of his opportunity. Take away the precious weapon of picking the exact polling date and you throw open the entire political game.

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Right..... only 99% bad. Not even 4 years of non-LDP control in the democratic era.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sorry, but a democratic system that isn't chosen directly by the people, and consists of little more than select elite families is a terrible system.

A government that can blow loads of money, holding an election that they're already predicted to win during a massive recession is not terrible, it's idiotic.

In my 8 years here, the Gov't is still bickering over the same issues, and making the same gaffs (mostly Aso) year after year.

So, yes, it's all bad on the top.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

This isn't even an "election." It's only being held because the outcome is already pre-determined.

In fact, this is the OPPOSITE of an election. The consolidation of power.

And all the goofs screaming in front of all the stations (and all the "journalists" writing about "democracy") merrily comply without a second thought.

Sheep being led to a slaughter.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If things keeps on continuing like this, perhaps its time to revive the shogunate.. :p

3 ( +3 / -0 )

it's probable that levels of corruption have come down

I doubt it, but with the secrets law coming in this week we won't be hearing any more about it.

there is a huge range of candidates to choose from

No there isn't. Most places have just three candidates: LDP weasel, communist and some other loser. Not much of a choice, it it? This is due to the need to pay Y3,000,000 just to stand as a candidate. The LDP weasels simply help themselves to public funds, but independents have to pay out of their own pocket. Just another example of how Japanese elections are rigged to favour the incumbents.

The only good thing I can think of is the short campaign period.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I'm glad I'm out of the country for a while. Can't stand the noise from those sound trucks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

$500 million........Remarkable, where does all that money go? Has nobody thought of asking there candidate? I have, he said its an exaggeration. I left it at that. Political parties in government spent $123 million on funding in 2013..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yes Politics Japanese style IS all bad...as are most of the political writers' opinion pieces by the looks of things.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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