December 17, 2012

Back in the saddle

This is what a landslide looks like. In Sunday's election, the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party)/Komeito coalition captured a veto-proof majority in the Lower House of the Diet while the ruling DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) saw its seat count fall from 230 to 57. Wipe out.

(Ignore what the initials stand for. The LDP are the Rockefeller Republicans in this equation, red to the DPJ's blue.)

Incoming PM Shinzo Abe candidly admits that this election was more about the voters kicking out the DPJ than embracing the LDP. For the past year, the LDP caved on the critical issues and merrily obstructed everything else until the voters could vent their frustration.

Outgoing PM Noda did the thankless work of doubling the sales tax in order to fight Japan's sky-high national debt. Naoto Kan, PM when Fukushima melted down, lost his own seat. Basically, everything bad that could have happened happened under the DPJ's watch.

After a disappointing stint as PM in 2006-7, Abe is back promising to weaken the yen with Bernanke-inspired tactics (buying bonds with printed money) and take a harder line against China. On the stump, he's apologized for not being nationalistic enough last time.

If the LDP makes similar gains in the Upper House elections next summer, Abe's public musings about amending the Japanese constitution to put more muscle in Japan's military (namely, taking the "Self" out of the "Self-Defense Forces") may well become a reality.

China's foreign policy stance towards Japan--talk loudly, wave a big stick, and riot on occasion--is bearing fruit, and they sure ain't gonna like them apples.

For fifty years following the war, the LDP ruled Japan as a de facto one-party state. After being swept aside a few years ago, the LDP returns to office with a clean slate, shared enemies, and a fresh source of revenue. There's no end to the second acts in Japanese politics.

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