Japan’s ruling bloc victory ends years of gridlock

By Yang Jingjie and Liu Yunlong Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-22 1:23:00

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition Sunday secured a majority in the upper house of parliament, media exit polls showed.

The election win will allow Abe to push forward his agenda to revive Japan's economy and paves the way for his long-sought pursuit of revising the country's pacifist constitution, a move that would further complicate Tokyo's relations with its neighbors.

According to early results and exit polls conducted by broadcaster NHK, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner New Komeito secured at least 71 seats among the 121 up for grabs.

With their uncontested 59 seats in the upper house, their combined seats gave the two parties a hefty majority in the 242-seat upper house, leading to the end of an unstable parliament after six years.

Experts suggested the results will temporarily end "revolving door" politics in Japan, which has seen seven prime ministers since 2006.

Lü Yaodong, a research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the ruling bloc's victory was a result of voters' recognition of Abe's economic policies and the weakness of the challengers. "Abe's tough diplomatic stance in dealing with territorial disputes with China and Russia also appealed to voters' emotions," Lü said.

With grips on both chambers of parliament, Abe is expected to go ahead with his economic policies dubbed as "Abeconomics" - loose monetary and fiscal policies and structural reform.

In addition to reviving the economy, an upper house victory has also set the stage for the Abe administration's core political agenda - revision of the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9.

Following the polls, Abe Sunday said more debate was needed to win public understanding on constitutional reform, AFP reported.

In April, Abe came up with a roadmap for the revision, which made a victory in the upper house  a first step to be followed by a revision to Article 96 and then the interpretation of the meaning of collective self-defense.

Hu Lingyuan, a professor with the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times that since New Komeito disagrees with the LDP's proposal, if Abe insists on pushing for the revision, the coalition may split, and he will not have enough votes to make the changes, even with the backing of some smaller parties that support the revision.

Lü shared the view that Abe would meet obstacles in the process, but noted Abe wouldn't drop his long-time political goal of pushing through the revision.

Hu noted that reinterpreting the right to exercise collective self-defense is an attainable goal for Abe, given the US is likely to support the move. "It will make it more convenient to deepen military cooperation with the US to rival China in the East China Sea, and strengthen military cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam, which have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea," he said.

A revision to the pacifist constitution would further send chills to Tokyo's already strained relations with its neighbors.

Abe and the new Chinese leadership, which came to power in March, haven't spoken via the phone or held meetings. Last week, during visits to two islands near the disputed Diaoyu Islands, Abe said he is "determined" to protect "Japan's territories," and vowed "not to budge one bit."

Lü noted the move shows Abe's insincerity in easing tensions. "On the one hand, Tokyo tells international society the door for dialogue with China is open, and on the other, it keeps pushing for the nationalization of the islets."

Hu said that Tokyo's provocative steps are made in coordination with Washington's pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

"Japan hopes to take advantage of the US pivot and strengthen its military power. The Asia-Pacific didn't become more stable as a result, but is ridden with crisis," Lü warned.

Despite the hawkish stance shown by Abe, Hu said in the long term it is in Tokyo's best interests to ease its tensions with Beijing. "The priority of the Abe administration is to keep the stability of economy. China's large market and economic cooperation are very necessary for Japan," he said.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

blog comments powered by Disqus