Mrs. Adamu enters the polling station
Today Japan votes to select half the members of its upper house of parliament. I have been lax in my blogging duties this time around, but thankfully there is a wealth of excellent writing on the election in English to choose from. To get an idea of what’s going on, I recommend:
>> Transpacific Radio is planning to do a live video feed of the results tonight. Other obligations prevent me from joining this time, but once I get home I’ll be watching from my corner of Tokyo.
>> Japan Real Time – The Wall Street Journal’s new Japan blog has been (somewhat surprisingly) a great resource for info on the election comings and goings.
>> Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an English-language live map of the results. If you read Japanese you can turn to any number of sources, though – I will be using Asahi, for the most part.
>> Conflicting takes on the election’s meaning from two people who normally agree with one another.
First, we have Michael Cucek’s article on the “meaningless” upper house election. His ultimate point as to why the high number of undecided voters in the polls:
Japan’s Meaningless Election
There is, of course, a more fundamental reason why many voters are confused and unable to make a choice, even on the eve of a historic first election under a non-LDP government–and that is the lack of a clear national purpose. Japanese voters are highly educated, law-abiding (for the most part) and eager participants in their own democracy. Ask most of them what Japan’s national goals are, however, and you’ll draw an embarrassed silence, or some dangerous platitude like ‘to live at peace with other countries.’
Without goals or aims, it’s extremely difficult to choose which path to take. Or, in this case, which party or person you want to vote for.
In contrast, here is Observing Japan:
The significance of this election has been thrown into clear relief since Kan Naoto took over from Hatoyama Yukio as prime minister and head of the DPJ. What once looked to be a referendum on the leadership of Hatoyama and DPJ secretary-general Ozawa Ichirō — a referendum that polls suggested that the DPJ would not win — is now an election on the future of Japan, perhaps to an even greater extent than last summer’s historic House of Representatives election. If the DPJ can retain control of the upper chamber, it will have three years before it will have to face the voters again in an election, provided that no snap election is called in the meantime. Those are three years that the government can use to make tough political decisions that a government with a shorter time horizon might be less inclined to make, like, say, a consumption tax increase.
And so this election is critical for Japan’s future.
I would come down somewhere in the middle. If Japanese voters have nothing more to aspire to, what was all the fuss about last year? And why was the debate over issues like Japan-US security, privatization of Japan Post, and so on, so fierce and unyielding? At the same time, this election won’t change the main party in power – the biggest question is whether the DPJ will need a coalition partner or partners to secure a majority in the upper house. Important, yes, but not the defining issue of a generation either.