Japanese Upper House Election Incoming!

Well, it’s been an interesting half a year for Japan. The election of LDP leader Shinzō Abe last December seems to have broken Japan out of its monotonous political stagnation. It’s quite interesting to see that after a slew of DPJ leaders doing very little, the Japanese people, quite rightfully, found it necessary to shift to the LDP. Abe is no self-interested career politician. Well, at least he does not appear to be. Unlike his predecessors, Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda, Abe takes a tough stance on issues which many predicted would be seen as controversial by the public. In tonight’s election, we’ll get a good idea of the popularity of his administration and his policies.

Abe’s most prominent political moves have included his steadfast approach to negotiations with the Chinese with regards to the Senkaku/Daioyu/Pinnacle Islands. Not to mention, he wants to amend the Japanese constitution to allow the Japanese to properly defend themselves without relying on the Americans. His strong fiscal policy intends to bring Japan out of its excessively high national debt, we have yet to see the extent of the effect of these policies but Japan can hope? The Nikkei is up 40% since the new year, if that counts for anything…

But Abe has done a lot of stupid stuff throughout his political career. Although careful and moderate in his motions nowadays, he has at times turned a blind eye to Korean “comfort women”, he was directly involved in the ‘Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform’, that lovely little group that tried to downplay the atrocities the Japanese committed throughout their imperialistic days. His book, ‘Toward a Beautiful Nation’ of which there is a lovely review by the British Japan Society is an interesting read, I don’t think there is an English version available as of yet, drop a comment if you know of one and I’ll link it.

So, to summarise: Abe has done his best to reform Japan economically and politically, He’s taken a fighting stance to many issues which can’t be said of his predecessors. Yet he, like many Japanese politicians, has spoken his mind in a manner which is controversial and at times, unjustified. Overall, I like his policies. He’ll be one to watch over the coming months.

But yes, barely coherent babbling from a Scotsman over Japanese politics may lead you to ask, “Why is Shinzō Abe relevant at this specific moment and time?” Well, the Upper House election is tonight, which means in a few hours after this article is posted on Asia Crunch; we will have our first true indication of Japanese public opinion about Abe as Prime Minister! I would put money on him being pretty damn popular. Not overwhelmingly so as you can never please everybody but analysts are coming out with the same thing, Abe has taken a stand and is trying to fix Japan and the Japanese love that.

Today leaders of both parties made last minute speeches in an attempt to garner support. Abe (LDP) has casually reminded everyone that he’s improved the economy in 6 months and ragged on the opposing DPJ for having failed to achieve that after 3 consecutive years in power. He made some points about increasing the role of women in Japanese society and improving day-care facilities of all things. The DPJ responded with a warning about how risky these economic reforms are and a promise to reform their party as a matter of urgency. Political sabre rattling at its most mundane it seems.

To keep up with the election over the coming hours, I recommend NHK World’s pieces as part of the Japan Decides campaign, their analysis was fantastic and very objective in the last general election. Friendly debate is welcome in the comments or on any of our social networking pages but keep it clean, it’s only politics!

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