Japan is a country located in the region of Eastern Asia. The LDP has held government power since 2012 in coalition with New Komeito and with Shinzo Abe as prime minister. Energy supply and the future of nuclear power have been a new challenge alongside the many years of problems with the sluggish economy and aging population. In addition, tensions to China have intensified and the tendencies towards increased nationalism have become a hot political issue, as well as Japan’s ability to act militarily abroad.
The DPJ failed to retain voter confidence in the House elections on December 16, 2012. LDP, which had previously ruled the country for almost the entire post-war era, won a landslide victory and regained government power with promises to fix the country’s crisis-hit economy.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Japan, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The defeat for DPJ was seen by analysts as a consequence of the party in office failing to realize promises of economic improvement and changing power structures in society. The party was also weakened by internal wear and tear. A battle over a planned VAT increase in July 2012 led DPJ veteran Ichiro Ozawa to bring 48 other members to the newly formed People’s Life comes first, which then became the third largest party in the lower house.
In the December election that year, LDP gained its own majority, with 294 of the 480 seats in the lower house, while DPJ collapsed from 230 to 57 seats. The newly formed right-wing nationalist Japan’s reconstruction party (see Political system) conquered 54 seats and LDP’s Alliance Party New Komeito received 31. People’s lives will only succeed in retaining seven of their seats. After the election, Yoshihiko Noda resigned as party leader for DPJ.
The LDP gained such a large majority that the party, in a coalition with New Komeito, could pass laws even if the upper house voted against.
LDP leader Shinzo Abe took office as prime minister and the stock exchange began to rise immediately. The government quickly implemented extensive stimulus measures to deal with the failing economy. These appeared to yield results in the spring of 2013. Until April 2013, share prices had risen by nearly 70 percent since autumn 2012 and several large export companies, such as Sony and Toyota, showed profits. Consumers spent more and the economy grew by 4 percent.
An important stimulus was also given in April 2014 when the country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, promised to double the amount of money circulating in the country’s economy – a radical monetary policy with the aim of triggering inflation of 2 percent (see Economy).
Abe had already stated upon his entry that he wanted to boost Japan’s economy with the help of “three arrows”. The first arrow was the government’s stimulus package and the second Bank of Japan’s extremely expansive monetary policy. According to Abe, the third arrow consisted of more profound structural changes to promote stronger growth in the longer term, for example through liberalization in protected sectors and the labor market. This program was quickly renamed “Abenomics”.
Abe also spread slogans to spread optimism and pride in the country, such as “Japan is back”.
LDP had wind of the sails ahead of the general election in July 2013. LDP and New Komeito went ahead and secured a majority of the mandate. Thus, the government gained a stable majority in both chambers of Parliament and easier to implement its policy.
Try to change the constitution
During his first year of government, Abe had strong support for popularity measurements, but in 2014 it began to weaken. Occasionally, his opinion rate dropped to just under 50 percent, and the economy hit harder than expected by a VAT increase in April 2014 (see Finance).
At the same time, in 2014, Abe increasingly emphasized its nationalist stance. According to Abe, Japan has the right to be proud of much of what it has achieved. He also believed that the country could more actively support allied countries in conflicts.
The contradictions with China became increasingly inflamed, although both countries are financially dependent on each other. In the summer of 2014, the government began to work on a new interpretation of the Constitution to give Japan the right to participate in “collective self-defense” abroad. However, this went against a strong opinion (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Abe’s willingness to launch the nuclear reactors that meet new safety requirements also met a wide popular resistance that went hand in hand with increased distrust of the authorities, a skepticism that has been extra nourished by all the failures and secrets associated with the tsunami disaster and the nuclear accident in 2011.
The 2014 election
In mid-November 2014, Prime Minister Abe announced election to the House of Commons, two years in advance. The reason for Abe choosing to hold a new election on December 14 was to get confirmation that he had the voters’ support for his policy. Abe and LDP were supposedly favored by an election held earlier than planned, especially since Abe and the government’s popularity figures were still high. It was far from certain that voters’ support would be just as strong later on, not least because several controversial legislative proposals were expected to come up in the spring, in addition to the issue of collective self-defense, also plans to get nuclear power plants up and running again.
Abe’s election tactics succeeded and he received the confirmation from the voters he hoped for. In the election, LDP won 290 seats and Komeito 35. Together, the parties thus controlled two-thirds of the mandate and were thus able to continue to run together, despite the fact that the Democratic Party (which after a merger with two other parties was shortened DP instead of DPJ) went ahead with 11 seats..
Even in the election of 121 of the Senate’s 242 seats in July 2016, the government parties won a big victory. Together, the LDP and Komeito got 145 seats, giving them their own majority in the Senate. Thus, the government had its own majority in both chambers of Parliament.
Failing support for Abe
In September 2016, the Democratic Party elected a new party leader, Renho Murata. Her popularity in social media and strong support from voters in Tokyo in the Senate election that summer made her seen as the first opposition politician who could seriously pose a threat to Prime Minister Abe. But she became short-term in her post – already after ten months she chose to step down. One of the main reasons for her decision was DP’s poor performance in the Tokyo local elections in July 2017. DP had to be defeated by popular Tokyo Mayor Yuriko Koike’s newly formed local party Tomin first. The same was true of LDP, which lost two-thirds of its seats in the local assembly. For Shinzo Abe, the choice was a major setback. He had for a long time been confronted with several political scandals and accusations of having favored friends and family in different ways. Abe’s and the government’s support in voting polls among voters was low and to try to remedy this, Abe conducted a government reform in August 2017.
In the spring of 2017, the LDP had changed its rules to allow the popular Abe to remain as prime minister for a third three-year period from 2018, previously the limit had been two consecutive periods. But Abe’s failing public support and the backlash in the Tokyo election caused his rivals within the party to breathe the morning air. LDP and Abe also chose to no longer pursue the issue of interpreting the pacifist constitution to the same extent as before (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
But North Korea’s test of robots over Japan that fall became an opportunity for Abe to increase its popularity and shift its focus from recent scandals linked to the government. The missile test led to new demands to strengthen Japan’s military capabilities to meet the threat posed by North Korea and Abe was not late to exploit this to legitimize its own security policy agenda.
The Election 2017
At the end of September, Abe disbanded the lower house and announced that elections would be held in October. It had been speculated for some time whether Abe would try to take advantage of the fact that opinion polls for him and the LDP were once again rising in the wake of the North Korean crisis and seize the opportunity to call elections. The opposition party DPJ was greatly weakened, but Abe faced competition from an unexpected direction when Tokyo’s popular governor Yuriko Koike formed a new party at the national level – Hope’s party. Several well-known politicians, mainly from the DP – but also a member of the LDP government, went over to the new party that promised change. Shortly thereafter, DPJ decided not to put up any candidates in the elections at all, but instead applied to represent Hope’s party. The decision led to more liberal DP members joining a new party, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) led by DP politician Yukio Edano. The Democratic Party was thus dissolved in practice.
Abe stressed the importance of continuing economic policy and tackling the problem of declining birth rates and an aging population and North Korea. He wanted to appeal to young voters by investing in increased contributions to education.
“Super majority” for Abe’s coalition
Just before the election, as opinion polls indicated a declining support for the Hope party, Koike decided not to step down from the Tokyo governor post to stand as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. As a result, the support for the party failed even more.
In the October 22 election, Prime Minister Abe won a grand victory. The LDP and the coalition partner New Komeito took over two-thirds of the mandate, which not only meant that Abe could continue with its economic policy but also had the ability to meet the goal of changing the constitution. His goal is to rewrite section 9 of the Constitution so that the Japanese self-defense forces are formally recognized. But Abe promised to seek broad support for this among the parties in Parliament. He also stated that after the election victory, the government will take the hard gloves against North Korea. The election win also strengthened Abe’s ability to get rid of internal challengers within the party ahead of the September 2018 party leadership elections. However, many judges felt that the fact that Abe had won the House elections was not because he was so popular with voters,
Abe re-elected as LDP leader
At the end of September 2018, Prime Minister Abe succeeded in winning the party’s support for a third term as LDP leader and prime minister. He was thus well on his way to being the prime minister in the country that had been sitting at the longest post. Yet Taro Katsura, who was head of government for three periods between 1901 and 1913, held the record. But within a year Abe would have had the post the longest.
The opportunity for Prime Minister Abe to finally realize his dream of a constitutional change also increased through his re-election. But the ruling parties failed to win enough votes in the House of Commons elections in July 2019 to be able to control two-thirds of the mandate, which would have made it even easier for Abe and his government to enforce the changes. However, the government coalition (LDP and Komeito) won the election and retained a majority of the mandate.
A year later, the political situation had changed and Abe’s popularity among the Japanese was no longer as obvious. In May 2020, an opinion poll conducted by Asahi Shimbun magazine showed the lowest opinion polls (29 percent) for Abe since 2012, when he came to power.
The low support was not least a consequence of the corona crisis. The new coronavirus, which causes the covid-19 disease, began to spread in earnest at the end of March, leading to the government introducing emergency permits in early April and restrictions on staying outside the home. Although Japan had relatively few infected compared to many other countries, the infection became a heavy burden for the healthcare system. At the end of March, Japan was forced to postpone the Olympics that would have been held during the summer of 2020 to 2021. The already sluggish economy was also hit hard. Abe tried to meet the problems of, among other things, distributing 100,000 yen (SEK 9,000) to all citizens. But support for him and the government declined anyway.
At the end of May, the government decided to gradually lift the state of emergency and restrictions in the country. By then, Japan had had around 16,500 cases of covid-19 detected, while just over 800 people had died of the disease.
Read more about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
READING – learn more about Japan in the UI’s online magazine Foreign Affairs magazine:
Abe wants to ride a nationalist wave in Japanese new elections
FACTS – POLITICS
Nippon / Japan
monarchy, unitary state
Head of State
Emperor Naruhito (2019−)
Head of government
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2012−)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 284, Constitutional Democratic Party 55, Hope Party 50, Komeito 29, Japan Communist Party 12, Nippon Ishin no Kai 11 (2017) 1
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 291, Democratic Party (DPJ) 73, Japan’s Reconstruction Party 41, New Komeito 35, Japan’s Communist Party 21 2
about 53% in the election to the lower house 2017, about 49% in the election to the upper house 2019
elections to the lower house of parliament by 2021, elections to the upper house of parliament 2022,
1.The figures relate to the seats in the lower house for election in 2017. The results of the recent elections to the upper house to see Calendar July 2019
2. The figures relate to the seats in the lower house for election in 2014. The results of the elections to the upper house to see Calendar July 2013 and July 2016