'Stop the Goliath' plead Japan's opposition parties
Opposition face prospect of massive win by PM Abe’s party in Sunday’s general elections as unpopular issues not giving them any traction.

"Stop the Goliath” could easily be the unofficial slogan for Japan’s beleaguered opposition parties facing the prospect of a massive victory by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Sunday’s general elections.

None of the purported issues that are widely unpopular, including Abe initiatives such as restarting idled nuclear power plants, have given any of the half-dozen opposition parties contesting the election any traction.

That has left them with just one real talking point: stop the LDP Goliath from sweeping the board and re-creating, in effect, a one party state.

Several national polls taken in the last week of the campaign show the LDP gaining more than 300 seats in the 475-seat House of Representatives, the lower house of Japan’s bicameral parliament.

In other words, the party is set to actually increase its current overwhelming majority.

It would seem that Abe very shrewdly assessed the weakness of the opposition when he surprised the political world in late November by dissolving parliament and calling for a snap general elections two years before he had to.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could only field 180 candidates in the single-seat portion of the electorate.

In nearly two dozen seats, the only candidates are from the LDP and the Japanese Communist Party, which is the only party that actually contests every seat in the country, even if they have never manage to elect one of their own (they win some seats through proportional voting).

In one show of weakness, some DPJ party leaders have had to divert their national campaigning back to their own constituencies in the face of unusually vigorous challenges. That includes party leader Banri Kaieda, who some polls predict may lose his central Tokyo seat.

Two years after its disastrous beating in the 2012 election, many former DPJ supporters have not yet overcome their bitter disappointment with the DPJ government, which ruled from 2009 to 2012, and are likely to vote for the LDP this time around.

The real losers on Sunday may be the remnants of the "third force” parties that were prominent in the 2012 election. They include the Japan Innovation Party, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, which currently has about 40 seats – some of which the LDP, and possibly even the DPJ, are expected to win.

The only real suspense Sunday evening might turn out to be the voter turnout -- expected to be the lowest ever recorded.

Even the politicians themselves are mystified by the unprecedented disinterest and apathy of the voters. An aide to Miki Yamada, who is running against DPJ boss Kaieda, express his concern by saying, "we haven’t felt a strong reaction from the voters. It’s a complete lull.”

As many Japanese question why, in these difficult times, the government wants to spend around $70 million to hold an election, the resulting anger may persuade potential voters to sit this one out or cast blank ballots.

The election was called by Abe, ostensibly to gain a mandate from voters for his decision to postpone raising the national sales tax to 10 percent until 2017. The move, however, had only been opposed by civil servants in the Ministry of Finance.

An 8 percent rise to the sales tax last April is believed to have been behind the bad economic news for the past two quarters, news that worsened when the "corrected” GDP figures -- released this week -- indicated the economy had contracted by 1.9 percent rather than 1.6.

The LDP has its own slogan: "For economic recovery this is the one and only way,” indicating that -- at least in Abe’s mind -- this election also serves as a referendum on his economic policies, known as "Abenomics.”

It remains unclear, however, just how increasing his overwhelming majority by a few seats will give his economic plans much of a boost.

Last Modified: 2014-12-12 10:33:50
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