The Bright Side of Japan’s Bleak Election

Tobias Harris
October 26, 2017

On paper, it looks like Japan’s October 22 general election was more of the same. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, Komeito, went into the election with a supermajority in the House of Representatives, and emerged with that supermajority intact for a second straight election. Voters, facing a choice between a prime minister most do not trust and opposition parties they do not support, stayed home in near-record numbers, with turnout rising only one percentage point higher than the record low of 52.66 percent set in 2014. For Abe, it was a victory by default, the latest evidence that Japanese democracy remains hobbled by a lack of actual democratic choice.

But though the election cemented the ruling coalition’s dominance for the foreseeable future, extending a run of virtual one-party rule that has been broken only twice in the postwar era, it could also prove to be a turning point for Japan. Abe’s decision to call an early election inadvertently revealed that there is a genuine desire for a party that is unapologetically liberal and willing to part with the LDP consensus on a host of issues, most notably its desire to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Click here to read more in New Republic.

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