Japan: Economy and Security Main Concerns Before Elections | Asia | An in-depth look at current events from across the continent | DW
Japan heads to the polls for Sunday’s parliamentary elections, just weeks after Fumio Kishida became prime minister and with significant challenges at home and abroad at the forefront of voters’ concerns.
Opinion polls ahead of the elections to Japan’s powerful House of Representatives suggest that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could lose a few seats in the Diet’s lower house, which has 465 seats.
However, the LDP will almost certainly be able to retain the reins of government through its electoral alliance with the Komeito, a minority Buddhist-backed party.
The PLD currently holds 276 seats, with the left leaning Asahi newspaper predicting in its last opinion poll before election day that it could lose up to 25 seats. The Komeito currently has 29 seats and could lose four. This would still view the alliance as comfortably the largest in the house and allow him to form a government with Kishida at the helm.
The fractured nature of the opposition parties is in favor of the ruling coalition, although a number have agreed to unite in this election and will not field competing candidates in dozens of constituencies in an attempt to challenge the PLD.
Which parties are opposed to the Japanese PLD?
The Constitutional Democratic Party is the largest opposition party, with 109 seats ahead of the election, with the Communist Party of Japan at 12 seats and Nippon Ishi at 11, with four other minor parties and independent politicians making up the numbers.
Fei Xue, analyst for Asia at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Tokyo, expects the Kishida bloc to emerge victorious.
“The resulting ‘stable and absolute majority’ will guarantee the ruling coalition a majority in all standing parliamentary committees and the chairman of those committees,” he said in a press release on the elections.
“Internal ideological and political dissonance within [the opposition’s] the electoral base and persistent public concern “over his” political competence “will prevent a strong challenge to Kishida’s post as prime minister.
Japanese companies eagerly await LDP government
The business community would be happy with this outcome, said Naoya Oshikubo, senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management.
“In the absence of a strong opposition party in Japan, the LDP is on the verge of crossing the electoral victory line,” he said in a press release from the company. “This is what the market expects and it will be the most positive outcome for the Japanese economy.”
The companies are banking on the continuation of the policies of the last two prime ministers, Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe, including a large-scale easing monetary policy and growth strategies such as digitization and decarbonization “will remain priorities”.
It should also deploy additional financial assistance to businesses and households hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hiromi Murakami, professor of political science at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, says the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed in Japan and ordinary voters are now more concerned with turning the economy on.
“As a voter, I hope that promises to help struggling businesses and households will be kept and that the new government’s policies will lead to a visible improvement in the national economy,” she told DW.
“And although I expect the PLD to win, I hope it’s not too easy for them because it would be nice to have opposition to make them keep their promises, on things like the political reform. ”
Local elections run parallel to parliamentary polls
Concerns over North Korea and China
Away from purely national issues, Murakami said the Japanese are concerned about the deteriorating security environment in Northeast Asia and the impact it may have on their lives in the years to come.
“For me, personally, the biggest worry must be North Korea, which recently launched a series of ballistic missiles, has nuclear weapons and is completely unpredictable,” she said.
“Some of these missiles have landed in Japanese territorial waters and they don’t seem to care or listen to criticism from the international community.”
“Among ordinary people, there is also a growing awareness that Taiwan is under increasing pressure from China and is becoming a kind of flashpoint in the region, while Beijing also claims some Japanese islands in the sea. from eastern China, which is worrying, ”she said. .
Images of North Korean missile launch in October broadcast in Tokyo
Kishida, a former foreign minister to Prime Minister Abe, was quick to identify the threat posed by an aggressive and expansionist China as the greatest danger for Japan immediately after it took over as leader in late September.
On the day he announced the dissolution of the Diet for the election, he stressed the importance of the Japanese-American security alliance, insisting that “the next elections are about choosing the future of Japan. “.
A sort of dove before taking over, Kishida is expected to continue the hard line of previous administrations on China, especially on the issue of Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing, the disputed islands in the South China Sea. and, perhaps most importantly, Taiwan.
A key element of this policy has been to strengthen existing economic and security alliances, such as with the United States and countries in Southeast Asia, and to develop new relationships with countries further afield.
This deepening of Japanese alliances has not gone unnoticed in Beijing. Earlier this month, a fleet of five Chinese warships conducted a series of joint maneuvers with Russian warships in the Sea of Japan before taking an unprecedented milestone crossing the Tsugaru Strait, between the Japanese main island of Honshu and the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.
The fleet then sailed along the east coast of Japan and back into the East China Sea via another narrow strait between the Japanese islands in the southernmost tip of the archipelago.
The fleet did not enter Japanese waters, and both Beijing and Moscow insisted the ships were simply exercising their right of free passage in international waters.
However, the timing of the exercise and the fact that this is the first time the two countries have cooperated on such maneuvers are widely interpreted as a warning to Japan.