Japan Today

Abe says LDP election victory will bring stability

By Shingo Ito

After six years of political turmoil and a slew of short-term prime ministers, Japan looks set for stability if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc wins this weekend's election, analysts say.

But the question is whether Abe will continue his program of economic reforms, or revert to nationalist type and risk a further fraying of relations with China.

"We need political stability to carry out policies," Abe told reporters. "We will get that political stability by winning the upper house election."

Voters nationwide will Sunday elect half of the 242-seat upper house of parliament.

Opinion polls show Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition ally will win more than half the seats up for grabs.

That would give the 58-year-old premier control of both chambers, removing electoral obstacles until the next national poll three years hence.

Stability like that has not been seen in Japan since before Abe's first stint as prime minister to September 2007.

Then, 12 months in office were characterised by division and capped with his resignation after a heavy electoral defeat.

In the intervening years, Japan's already sclerotic politics ossified as a succession of weak prime minsters came and went, undone by party infighting and factionalism.

But since a triumphant return to the top job in December, an invigorated Abe has delighted the country, offering hope he may go the distance.

"The Abe administration can become a long-run regime," said Koji Nakakita, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. "It even has the potential to go beyond the next three years."

Abe has enjoyed high public support thanks to a slew of economic measures -- dubbed "Abenomics" -- intended to stimulate Japan's deflation-plagued economy.

The first two of the three "arrows" he has outlined -- huge government spending and a flood of easy money -- have been fired, sending the yen tumbling and pushing Tokyo stocks to multi-year highs.

The third arrow is trickier but is intended, the government says, to "revive private sector vigour".

An ill-defined wish list includes corporate tax cuts, special business zones, more women in the workplace and Japan's participation in a Pacific-wide free trade pact.

But awakening the economy after two decades of slumber is a tall order, compounded by the need to address levels of debt already over twice the GDP.

An early step is a pledged hike in the five percent consumption tax to eight percent next April and to 10 percent in 2015.

While that might help rebalance national books, observers warn it also risks dampening consumer spending.

"It is quite a high hurdle" to maintain a recovery and limit the impact of the tax hike, said Hideo Kumano, executive chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

"Optimism and pessimism are mixed for the fate of Abenomics," Kumano said.

Political stability may also help Japan resume dialogue with China and South Korea, both at odds with Tokyo over territorial disputes.

"The expected outcome of the election will be a good message to China and South Korea, saying Japan is now stable enough to sit down and talk," said Shinichi Nishikawa, political professor at Meiji University in Tokyo.

But far from proving a balm, some pundits predict renewed political clout will mean Abe picking up pet projects bound to irritate Beijing and Seoul, like bolstering the armed forces or softening Japan's commitment to pacifism.

"The centerpiece of his policy is not Abenomics but revision of the constitution," said Nakakita. "It would not be surprising if he gets to work on the constitution issue soon after the election."

© (C) 2013 AFP

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Bring stability by become more and more authoritarian?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

bolstering the armed forces or softening Japan’s commitment to pacifism

The ladder won't cost much, the former is going to be expensive. How's AbeJoe going to pay for it? That's what I'd like to know. Is anyone hearing any Abeolicies as to how he's going to do this? I spent two hours yesterday running after an Abepaign car hoping to hear something. All I got was heatstroke.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan was hardly "unstable" before in the bad sense. Look at Egypt, Syria and Turkey (or even Afghanistan) if you want to know what true instability is like.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

The stability will last until China occupies the Senkakus, and then all bets are off.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Surely a landslide victory, resulting in power to push through policies without resistance, will by design result in more & faster change and thus less stability.

But as I said in another thread, I think this is better than a gridlocked political system. Let the democratically elected government pursue their mandate with vigor and then let the people decide next election if they like what they see and want more.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

My wife just paid near 20 percent tax on her bonus. We are not rich. Add the consumption tax. If by stable he means forever poor, he and his party are doing a bang up job.

And what sorts of things do we get for out tax payments? Million dollar attempts to prevent erosion on sinking rocks in the ocean. IC chips in our licenses and foreign registration cards. Fingerprinting at the airport. Whitewashing of black history and visits to Yasukuni that harm foreign relations and trade.

Better to have a do nothing government than these driven rightists digging in our pockets to fund their campaigns of making trouble and enriching themselves. Japan was stable. Its the LDP intent on destroying stablity.

-5 ( +14 / -19 )

Abe is right - it will bring stability. But the cost will be old-school thinking, a lack of innovation, stunted social and political progress, parliamentary sclerosis and good old Japanese style corruption and nepotism. All hail the Emperor. Hoo-rah....

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Political stability may also help Japan resume dialogue with China and South Korea, both at odds with Tokyo over territorial disputes.

“The expected outcome of the election will be a good message to China and South Korea, saying Japan is now stable enough to sit down and talk,” said Shinichi Nishikawa, political professor at Meiji University in Tokyo.

This is just ironic... since it was the DJP that first wanted to get closer to China and SK by talking more seriously about the ASEAN+3 proposal. And of course it was the Japanese bureaucrats and the US government that sabotaged that whole idea. And since the "real" DJP lead by Ozawa and Hatoyama was gone, it was completely destroyed by Kan and Noda who never seemed to care about the initial ideals of the DJP. They talk about how "unstable" the DJP was, but that's only because they sabotaged the party in the first place. It was what they WANTED and now they got it, so that the LDP could get back into power, and they did.

Anyhoo, LDP is actually not in a good shape... it has been very vulnerable since it was broken up in 1993. It could collapse at any minute.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

People seem to forget that during the Fukushima crisis the LDP seemed more interested in attacking their opposition than in helping deal with the Fukushima crisis. I have never seen anything more disgusting and I will never forget it, you shouldn't either.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Abenomics and more TEPCO / nuclear industry support... Japan's in for a really rough 2014. Time for that mass exodus...

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Priority should be given to put the economy on track (stable growth) rather than increasing the consumption tax rate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


+1 on that! I remember that jerk tanigaki, he was way beyond the pale that putz!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Bring stability by become more and more authoritarian?

Authoritarian is always justified by the need of "stability", they usually do not want change.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

'It even has the potential to go beyond the next three years'. Wow. A leader who stays in power for more than one G8 really is a force to be reckoned with. Other world leaders may even remember his name. Then again, I can see another bout of tummy trouble at the first sign of trouble before the next election.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How will it bring about any kind of stability? He'll suddenly shift from a focus on the economy, which has gotten him his support and popularity, and go whole hog on his nationalistic agenda: he'll go back to claiming Imperial troops didn't have anything to do with sex slaves and that the women were volunteers, he'll talk about revising Article 9 of the Constitution, he'll go back to, like many lawmakers/politicians, claiming Nanjing never happened (or at the very least he'll claim the numbers were 10% of the actual statistics and insinuate Japan wasn't that bad), etc. He'll make things MORE unstable in the region.

Add to that the fact that even within his own cabinet his nationalist agenda and economic policies are completely split in terms of support and it's quite hard to imagine any stability the guy is promising.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

LDP wants to restart most of the nuclear reactors while most Japanese oppose restarting because radiation causes cancer, organ failures, baby deformities etc and takes thousands of years to disappear (half life of thousands of years).

LDP wants to increase the consumption tax while most Japanese oppose, because that will raise the costs of goods, living etc.

LDP wants a hardline approach to relations with China and Korea while Japan's economic recovery depends quite a bit on Japanese exports to China, including fruits and vegetables.

LDP wants to vastly increase government spending without regard to government debts which is around twice the national GDP, the highest in the world. This might cause a downgrade of Japan's credit rating.

LDP wants to revise the Constitution so it can send Japanese boys and girls to fight all over the world.

Giving one party the majority in both houses will encourage corruption and authoritarianism as in India and US.

I hope the Japanese citizens vote wisely. The futures of their health, livelihood, sons, daughters and so on depend on their votes.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

DJP was trying to assert Japa.onn's independent approach in foreign affairs which USA did not like and they created media hipe to topple that government. CIA might have played a bigger role in it. Therefore Japanese people avoid voting LDP to absolute majority in upper house electi

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Of course a strong government will bring stability and progress. Abe is the only Japanese politician at the present time who seems to have any new ideas and who has the gumption to stand up to China. A succession of weak governments and Prime Ministers did nothing for Japan. A strong government is very necessary, no matter what some weak-kneed opponents might think. No country has ever progressed with a weak government or weak leaders.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

A Realist: "Abe is the only Japanese politician at the present time who seems to have any new ideas and who has the gumption to stand up to China."

That is, by definition, regional instablity, not stability. Besides, we're talking about the same man who already quit once after being pretty much the worst PM in Japanese history and failing to bring about any stability (and indeed he helped almost single-handedly make things move from a promising look to the future with NK to the current "let's test bombs and launch satellites!" situation we have), etc. The poliicies he will be able to pursue with a majority will lead not only to further weakening of ties with neighbours -- ie. instability -- but a failure to make things more stabie domestically. Abe calls himself a 'hawk', knowing the majority of Japanese don't think like him when it comes to nationalism, so how on earth will he make things more 'stable'?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Of course a strong government will bring stability and progress. Abe is the only Japanese politician at the present time who seems to have any new ideas and who has the gumption to stand up to China.

Well first off, Japan doesn't need to "stand up" to China, but rather tit needs to cooperate and co-exist with China. You don't deal with another country (especially one that is 10 times bigger than yours) by threatening them, that's diplomatic suicide. And Abe is hardly a "strong leader", he bows down to Washington and does whatever they tell him to do.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Almost all, if not all of the LDP candidates will be victorious.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

smithinjapan: I am not sure what your problem is; you seem to have a hatred for Abe (and Japan) that knows no bounds. Do you not agree that Japan has been in the doldrums for more than two decades? Do you not know that China has increased its military expenditure fourfold in the last decade alone? Cannot you see the Chinese aggression and belligerence not only in the East China Sea, but in the South China Sea as well? By what leap in logic do you blame Abe for North Korea's nuclear tests and missile testing?

Blaming Japan for worsening "ties" with China and Korea is simply bogus. WWII has been over for 68 years, peace treaties signed, war criminals tried and punished, reparations paid and apologies made (not that China or Korea ever accepted or even acknowledged them). Most countries in the world, including in Asia, get along just fine with Japan. Why has the rest of the world been able been able to move on, and only China and Korea have not? Maybe they should look at themselves, stop using Japan as a whipping boy for political purposes and stop churning out reams of anti-Japanese propaganda.

Abe is not threatening China or anyone else, vowing to safeguard Japan's territory is not a "threat." If Japan was to hand over the Senkaku Islands to China tomorrow, do you imagine that would solve anything? The first thing China would do if that happened would be to construct a submarine base there. I am unable to fathom just why you seem to hate Japan so much, I have not seen you say one single good thing about it as yet. And I gather you actually live there, which is even more puzzling. Why live in a place that seems to make you live in a perpetual paroxysm of rage? Why not mover to China or Korea, which you seem to love?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The foreign relations especially with SK and China are insignificant for each will act according to their own domestic needs without any consideration to the other party anyways. Japanese population, in general, are in no mood offer 'omiyage' to them as the DPJ tried to do but failed.

During the first six months, Abe has met with heads of states of over 30 nations and is scheduled to go to SE Asia again this month. It appears he's making an effort to fill in the schedule to avoid those two.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

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