I admit, I have been out of commission recently, and with my prep classes for the Securities Dealer Type II exam coming up (plus a bunch of other commitments) it looks to sort of stay that way. Still, I couldn’t stay totally silent on the upcoming election.
Since I haven’t seen anything like it in English yet, I’d like to show you a little chart I made up. It breaks down the seats in the Japanese Diet’s Upper House in terms of party affiliation:
Now here’s something you can get from news reports (Yomiuri):
If the LDP’s coalition partner, New Komeito, secures 13 seats—the same number of seats it won in the 2001 upper house election—the LDP would need 51 seats to maintain the ruling bloc’s majority. To accomplish its goal, the LDP aims to win 20 prefectural constituencies where one seat is being contested, and 18 seats in multiple-seat contests. “We’ll still reach our goal even if we only win 13 seats in the proportional representation contest,” an LDP source said.
But winning in 20 out of 29 constituencies where one seat is being contested is a high hurdle for the LDP, which is under fire over the pension fiasco.
But what the news reports probably won’t give you is a wildly speculative prediction of the results. I am here to deliver, but I want to add the disclaimer that my prediction, much like all the English-language election coverage, presumes no changes in party affiliation from some existing Upper House members. However, two Diet members have recently defected from opposition parties, and what’s more, many are predicting major party realignment depending on the election results. Anyway, here’s what I think will happen:
- Assume (since I don’t have much basis for it) the LDP does worse than expected. The DPJ exceeds its goal and wins 56 seats and the rest of the opposition picks up enough seats to form a coalition with the DPJ to get a majority in the Upper House.
- The DPJ coalition will then accuse the LDP coalition that it no longer has the mandate to use its supermajority in the Lower House to push bills through (presumably they will use a highly symbolic bill like the labor law revisions that didn’t make it through this time). The majority in the Upper House will use its power to deliberate any bill sent to it for 60 days as blackmail to try and force Abe to call a snap election.
- The snap election is held and while the LDP loses seats, it does not lose enough to fall out of the majority.
- At that point, the fissures (both in ideology and political style) that have long been festering within the parties will cause a major 90s-style party realignment, resulting in 1) A Koizumi-led Reaganite party (a pretty hefty group incorporating the likes of his Mori Faction allies and the Koizumi Children who were elected as replacements for anti-postal privatization LDP members and maybe Naoto Kan, who has brought the idea of teaming up to Koizumi before) 2) A center-left DPJ Lite including Hatoyama, more liberal LDP members such as the “non-Abe, non-Aso” group that I talked about earlier; 3) A hardcore right-wing pork barrel party including all of Kokumin Shinto (including a soon-to-be-elected-in-exile Alberto Fujimori), the rest of the LDP (including Abe and Aso, perhaps?); 4) The Communists and Social Democrats, which will stay the same (though SDP might change its name); and finally 5) Komeito, which will wait it out and latch onto whoever winds up on top, since all they care about is providing the stable votes and numbers in exchange for getting their shady pro-Soka Gakkai legislative agenda pushed through (such as excessive privacy protection).
And there you have it. Where do you think the political landscape is heading? One thing I would hate want to see happen is the LDP to lose just enough seats to make it possible to stay in power through bringing the Kokumin Shinto into the coalition. That would really put the nail in the coffin to any pretence the LDP had of trying to continue on a path to leaner government and realistic solutions to Japan’s problems.