Top of the Agenda: Abe's Mandate Bolstered in Japanese Upper House Elections
Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters
Japanese voters gave the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a sweeping victory in upper house elections Sunday, strengthening Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's grip on power as he seeks to further his bold economics plan—Abenomics—and pursue a nationalist foreign policy, pledging to move Japan past the "postwar regime" (WSJ). The LDP and its smaller partner, New Komeito, will now have 135 out of 242 seats in the upper house; the LDP already controlled the lower house, giving Abe the ability to pursue his agenda with newfound ease through 2016. Abe's plans to stimulate growth include the consumption tax, corporate tax breaks, and pursuing U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, a contentious issue among farmers (Kyodo). The LDP also seeks to rewrite Japan's pacifist constitution to enhance its defense capabilities amid regional tensions. Voter turnout was 52 percent, the third-lowest on record (NYT).
"A gap is opening between urban voters and rural ones living far from the luxury-car salesrooms and stockbrokers' bars where the atmosphere is most buoyant. In the countryside farmers threaten to punish the LDP for Mr Abe's surprise decision in March to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional free-trade agreement which they say will damage their livelihoods," writes the Economist.
"Voters who are pleased with [Abe's] bold economic plans may also be unwittingly giving Abe free rein to pursue a radically nationalist agenda that risks destabilizing the already tense security situation in East Asia. Abe and supporters in the conservative LDP, which already has a solid majority in the more powerful lower house, have made no secret of their desire revise the constitution, which has remain unchanged since it was adopted in 1947," writes Kirk Spitzer for Foreign Policy.
"The biggest contribution Mr. Abe can make to Japan's national security is to promote faster growth. Twenty years of stagnation, punctuated only by the Koizumi reform moment, mean that Japan lacks the economic dynamism to support an aging population. Only faster growth can finance Japan's debt burden and pay for defenses able to prevent China from asserting regional dominance. The Abe Restoration requires economic reform first," writes the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
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