|The November 9 Lower House election: results and the will of the people|
In the presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was selected for the second time. He subsequently dissolved the House of Representatives to seek voter confidence.
The election was held on November 9 after a two-week campaign.
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the top opposition party with which the Liberal Party had merged prior to the election, declared its commitment to taking over the Administration. Although the DPJ sharply increased its number of Diet seats to 177 (an increase of 40 seats), the LDP, although failing to capture the 246 Diet seats it had prior to the Lower House dissolution, still managed to capture 237 seats, more than the previous election.
Of note was the decline of the opposition parties other than the DPJ. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) suffered especially bitter defeats, with the former down from 18 seats to 6, and the latter from 20 to 9. Some journalists suggest that Japan has begun moving towards a two-party system.
The ruling party, which was previously composed of a coalition of three political parties, ended up becoming a two-party union after the New Conservative Party, following their disastrous election results, disbanded and joined the LDP.
Commenting on the results of this election, Prime Minister Koizumi said that his structural reform policies had won the support and confidence of the general public, and announced his intention of expediting the drafting of specific plans for promoting pension program reforms and privatization of all three branches of the postal services business. He added that, for the second Koizumi Cabinet, all the members of the previous Cabinet, which had been reshuffled by the Lower House dissolution, will remain in their respective posts, and will continue expediting a range of reforms.
One thing that made this election different from those in the past was that the DPJ had for the first time brought a manifesto, or campaign pledges, to the forefront, and confronted the LDP head-on. It is true that, in past Japanese elections, campaign pledges that political parties had made often turned out after the election to be nothing more than hot air. It appears that this increased people’s distrust in politics even further. If it can be improved, the manifesto system is likely take root in Japan.
This election addressed a variety of familiar issues and contemporary problems, including economic recovery, employment, pensions and life after retirement, and the deployment of our Self Defense Forces in other countries. Still, voter turnout was only 59.86%, the second lowest in history.