The Japanese prime minister has called a snap election—and we all know the risksby John Nilsson-Wright / September 28, 2017 / Leave a comment
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement of the dissolution of the Japanese Lower House, paving the way for a general election on 22nd October has thrown Japanese politics into a period of uncharacteristic volatility and uncertainty.
Since December 2012, when Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) decisively trounced the then governing Democratic Party (DP) headed by Yoshihiko Noda, Abe has seemed like the dominant actor on Japan’s political stage, but a couple of damaging corruption scandals over the past year have undermined public confidence in the prime minister.
In addition, the emergence of a new charismatic and politically astute political rival in the form of the first female governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, whose new populist movement decisively won the Tokyo Metropolitan assembly elections in July, has created a focus for anti-government disaffection that threatens to alter the political landscape in a manner echoing past political upheaval in the United States, France, Germany—and of course the UK. The question is: is Abe about to pull a Theresa May?
Ostensibly, Abe has called the election to allow the electorate to assess the merits of the government’s new economic policy—specifically, a decision to re-allocate the proceeds from an anticipated hike in Japan’s consumption tax, from 8 to 10 per cent in 2019, to fund not only a reduction in Japan’s national debt, but also a new programme of social welfare and educational expenditure.
In reality, Abe’s risky roll of the political dice is an attempt to capitalise on the weakness of the main opposition Democratic Party, languishing at around 7 per cent approval rates. The prime minister has also anticipated Koike’s launch of a new national party—Kibo no To, or “Party of Hope,” announced on Monday and which has attracted a number of prominent political defections from the Democratic Party.
Abe is also counting on the anxiety and uncertainty arising from the security challenge of North Korea to bolster his approval ratings at home from a public that he hopes will chose continuity over change and opt for stable and experienced government at a time of national crisis.
“A recent poll suggests 70 per cent of the Japanese electorate are critical of Abe’s snap election call”
At first glance, the election should be a walk in the park for the LDP. The economy has been performing well, growing…