The first post of the new electoral season after the electoral respite over the summer concerns Japan, which I covered a few days ago in a preview post. As previously stated, all 480 seats of the powerful Japanese lower house, the House of Representatives, was at stake. 300 of the members were elected in single-member constituencies by FPTP (the local seats) while 180 were elected in electoral ‘blocs’ (regions comprising of several prefectures, each bloc having a varying amount of seats) via proportional representation. Much stuff has been said about these quite historic elections by all people, and for once the international media paid attention to a foreign election (that means it’s important).
DPJ 42.4% (+11.4%) winning 308 seats (+198)
LDP 26.7% (-11.5%) winning 119 seats (-177)
New Komeito 11.5% (-1.8%) winning 21 seats (-10)
Communist Party 7.0% (-0.3%) winning 9 seats (±0)
SDP 4.3% (-1.2%) winning 7 seats (±0)
Your Party 4.3% winning 5 seats
People’s New Party 1.7% (±0.0%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Independent and Other Factions 2.1% winning 8 seats (-10)
DPJ-SDP-PNP Alliance 48.4% (+10.2%) winning 318 seats (+194)
Out of the 300 local seats at stake, the DPJ won 221, the LDP won 64, Independents won 7, the SDP and PNP won 3 each and Your Party won 2. The New Komeito, which held 8 local seats in 2005, lost all of them, and the party’s leader was even defeated in his Tokyo constituency (12th district).
In the bloc seats, the DPJ won 87, the LDP won 55, the New Komeito won 21 (all of its caucus), the Communists won 9 (all of their caucus), the SDP won 4 and Your Party won 3. A final seat was won by an Independent.
The DPJ swept eight prefectures: Iwate, Fukushima, Yamanashi, Niigata, Nagano, Aichi, Shiga and Nagasaki. Aichi is a important prefecture, and is the base, if my memory serves me correctly, of major Japanese industries. The city of Nagoya, a DPJ stronghold, is also in Aichi Prefecture. No clean sweep, however, in Hokkaido, despite the LDP losing all its incumbents there – however the LDP gained a seat, the 7th district. Not sure what went on there. An almost clean sweep in Saitama, Osaka, Tokyo and Kanagawa – all very important centres of Japan. The DPJ was really destroyed in Tokyo and Kanagawa in 2005. This goes with the pattern of huge DPJ gains in urban areas and lesser gains in rural areas, where the LDP machine isn’t crippled yet.
Unlike in the Tokyo prefecture elections, the LDP’s rout also affected it’s close ally, the New Komeito, which lost 1o seats. The Communists and Social Democrats held their ground quite well, though the LDP rebel parties, either the old ones from 2005 or the new ‘Your Party’ outfit, did poorly. In the end, I see those things dying out, and most of its voters returning to the LDP fold.
Yukio Hatoyama, a centrist and original founder of the DPJ, becomes Prime Minister with a large majority which is almost the fabled two-thirds majority. The DPJ was elected on a slogan of ‘People’s Lives First’, so it has a large mission ahead of it. It is committed to large-scale political and government reform, decentralization, budgetary reform, but also a certain skepticism for neoliberal economics, and centre-left social policies. A DPJ government is also likely to move Japan away from its close relationship with the US in favour of expanding ties with the UN and Asian nations for security matters, while still keeping the US as a close ally. Skeptics say the DPJ will govern like the LDP and that the DPJ is nothing but LDP2, but that remains to be seen, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The DPJ, however, must move fast, as it will be accountable to voters in 2010 (Upper House elections).
The future of the LDP is uncertain, and the next leadership fight will probably pit reformists against conservatives. It remains to be seen whether the LDP will stay as one, or if these two currents will split into new parties. It remains to be seen if a party like the LDP can be good in opposition and out of power. It also remains to be seen if a party like the LDP based around special interests and various lobbies can actually be a viable real political party – one that is sometimes in governments, sometimes in opposition. Interesting days ahead for Japan, certainly.