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Japan's Election: Landslide for Koizumi

by tuasfait Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 04:29:14 PM EST

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

Judging from the exit poll, Koizumi is set on a landslide victory, his party Liberal Democrats (LDP) winning about 300 out of 480 seats, while the opposition Democrats (DPJ) is suffering a serious setback with only 100 seats projected to win.

Koizumi has been able to draw thousands of enthusiastic crowds wherever he went with the campaign theme of postal service privatization and the "reform foward" one-liner. The mass perceived this election as a personal confidence vote in him, rather than a vote for LDP, his policy or anything else.  

This enthusiastic sense of trust is not just indication of support of the privatization policy. The vote is indicative of the mass support for his clear-cut leadership style, ranging from the support of the War on Terror and Iraq, DPRK and the China policy. They are sensing with excitement assertiveness, both inside Japan and abroad.

At this point, LDP does not have much of a economic platform. Traditionally, when they have clear mass support of this magnitude, they tended to raise the tax, as they have not been able to cut spending.

In terms of foreign policy, Koizumi has confidence of the people. Even the Iraq adventure is being counted by conservative media as a historic achievement in the sense that he sent troops overseas for the first time and did not "back down" (echoing South Korea's justification of joining the Vietnam war 30 years ago). Chinese and Korean governments will have an even more tense time with Japan, and probably seek ways to cooperate with each other against Japan.

The next few years will show a range of developments in this part of the world.

Thanks for checking in about this, Tuasfait...I was wondering what was happening in Japan, since you last posted. So...my question is, in your opinion, is Koizumi and good think for Japan? And where do the Liberal Democrats lay in the political spectrum? Are they Left of center, middle, or right of center? What are some of their key economic and environemtal stances? Where is Japan heading?
(I know, that's a lot of questions...but interested in anything you want to say about this...).

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 08:50:46 AM EST
Thanks for your interest. Here are random thoughts.

1. Macroeconomic Policy
Both fiscal and monetary policies have been expansionary. Japan can afford to run government deficits in trillions of yen as Japan still has total net savings of 3 percent of the nominal GDP. The short-term discount rate has been zero for some years. These policies are dominated by the bureaucracy (finance) and do not carry Koizumi's signature.

In fact, Japanese economy is gaining strength not because of the policies but the unexpected, sustained rise in consumption despite the declining wages during the past few years, as well as external factors.

2. Signature Policies
His signature economic policy has been privatization, with mixed results. Despite the hype about "privatization" of highways, the government will (naturally) continue to finance highway projects.

Postal service privatization is, as I wrote earlier, more a product of his personal enmity towards the former Ministry of Posts and politicians around them. Nevertheless, the majority feels comfortable about the talk of "reform forward" despite the fact that its specifics have never been defined, and this leads me to suspect the "reform" is being increasingly interpreted as "new beginning" of assertiveness particularly in its foreign policy.

3. Foreign Policy/Positioning
There is a strong tradition of the "America can't do no anything wrong" mentality in the leading elite and mass media. It is not surprising that they ended up being Bush apologists after 9/11.

Koizumi's decision to send troops to Iraq, however misguided, sent a new spark among the Japanese who, with the "new beginning" mentality, saw in this a new Japanese politico-military initiative. This awakening led then to an outraged reaction to China's anti-Japan demonstration and remains a dormant, but powerful force which unites the conservatives. Of course, Koizumi is aware of this and is exploiting it to maintain and exert his personal power.

4. Where Are Liberals?
Still it is premature to conclude Japan is set on reverting to militaristic adventurism, although there are signs.  The majority, for example, are opposed to Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni shrine and demand withdrawal from Iraq, according to a recent poll.

The problem is, these views do not have a core political movement around which they can unite. This leads to a disparate election victory like the one we saw today, and a vocal minority maneuver to adopt "patriotic" school history books. Needless to say, the conservative media have learned a great deal from CNN and FoxNews.

4. Conclusion
In a larger contest, the election is very local. Issues are local and the electorate mentality is local. With the full local flavor, Japan is venturing once again into the open sea.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 10:23:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

But where were Japan's economic problems during the campaign? Were there any different reform concepts by the LDP and DPJ? - I am just watching the German party leaders' speeches as they are beginning the last week of their election campaigns, and it's all about the economy. From my point of view, I can hardly believe economic issues were not the main theme. Any comment on this question would be very appreciated!

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 09:11:30 AM EST
Surprisingly, economic issues have never been seriously debated. For one thing, the official campaign period is only 12 days and the mass media and the people have been unable to calm down from the excitement over the postal privatization. Another reason is Japan's macroeconomic policy, either fiscal or monetary, is dominated by bureaucracy and it is unlikely to change much.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 10:54:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
maybe the postal privatisation is a vicarious issue for a more general approach to economic issues? Maybe Koizumi's success means more privatisation and more free-market policy also in other areas?
by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 04:55:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This has been his favored approach, with mixed short-term results. It is not yet clear if he would seek to apply the privatisation solution to social policies including the national health insurance and the pension, which are major causes of huge government deficits. In any event, the postal service is the last remaining government industry.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Sun Sep 11th, 2005 at 10:18:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately this trend of "free (slavery)market" , privatization of everything on/under/above Earth and tax cuts for rich is going great in these USA allies states...It will not going to change any time soon. We'll see how it's going to end but I just hope that Europe is not going to go that way under the pressure...
I wonder if one day we'll have to pay toll for breathing the air when we step out of our property (if we have one) on private streets and footpaths...Do you think it's a fiction?...I don't think so.
Who cares..."We'll all be rich"...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Sep 12th, 2005 at 12:34:29 AM EST
The West seems so blindly confident in privatising everything, even if objectively this is a huge historical experiment. Is this "government for the people, by the people"?

Living in Japan, I haven't noticed or understood much of this election. Apparently, there was big enthusiasm for reform and little visible crituque against. In Osaka, Koizumi was greated like rock star. It's all so PR.

This election is not good for countryside. Post-office is the last government agency which covers all corners. Tokyo profits from Koizumi's policies enormously. Even people or companies from Osaka (third largest city, after Tokyo and Yokohama) start to move there.

I wonder how Koizumi's "small government" will affect emergency agencies.

by das monde on Mon Sep 12th, 2005 at 01:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The West seems so blindly confident in privatising everything, even if objectively this is a huge historical experiment.
You are so right. I have lived one experiment, so called "communism" Eastern Europe style that failed catastrophically and am not keen on living this one, but it looks like it's in my cards being a citizen of Australia right now.
Even more then a first one this one looks like a "house of cards" to me...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Sep 12th, 2005 at 11:15:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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