- Title: JAPAN: Opposition set for big win amid voter dissatisfaction
- Date: 14th December 2012
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (DECEMBER 12, 2012) (REUTERS) PEOPLE WALKING INTO ELECTION CAMP PEOPLE WRITING DOWN THEIR IDEAS FOR ELECTION MORE OF PEOPLE WRITING PEOPLE DISCUSSING THEIR IDEAS FOR ELECTION MORE OF PEOPLE DISCUSSING (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) FOUNDER OF ELECTION CAMP KOHICHI SUZUKI SAYING: "Even though you're deciding how to change the world, people don't even take the first step in order to make the world they want by going out and voting, which is a huge problem. As for why that happens, while I don't completely know, to be honest, I don't think people care all that much."
- Embargoed: 29th December 2012 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVACRT855PA6QWXKAL7CWT2HU43S
- Story Text: Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) appears on track for a stunning victory in Sunday's (December 16) election, returning to power with hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the helm, and possibly ending Japan's political gridlock.
However, there has been dissatisfaction and indecision amongst voters.
Between 30 percent and nearly 50 percent of voters were undecided just days before the election, the surveys showed.
Contributing to the indecision is a fragmentation of the political landscape that has resulted in a dozen parties, some of them just weeks old, contesting the election, and confusion over policy differences between the main contenders.
Experts said that was unlikely to affect the general trend, although turnout will probably fall below the 69.28 percent seen in the last lower house election in 2009.
In downtown Tokyo, a tent greets participants who come every evening to participate in "Election camp" as they come to discuss their ideas on getting people out to vote.
Kohichi Suzuki, founder of the election camp, said drumming up enthusiasm for voting was no easy task.
"Even though you're deciding how to change the world, people don't even take the first step in order to make the world they want by going out and voting, which is a huge problem. As for why that happens, while I don't completely know, to be honest, I don't think people care all that much," he said.
Some voters at the election camp said they were still undecided.
"The Democratic Party of Japan is in pieces this time but you have to think how they would do if given another chance for another three years. On the other hand, you need to think whether the Liberal Democratic Party can do the job even if they take power. Same thing goes with the other smaller parties. We have to look closely to see which party will really work for the benefit of the country," said 31-year-old Kazuaki Fujimoto.
Opinion polls by the Asahi, Yomiuri and Nikkei newspapers on Friday (December 14) forecast that the LDP was heading for a hefty majority in the powerful 480-seat lower house of parliament.
The LDP and its smaller ally, the New Komeito party, could even gain the two-thirds majority needed to break through a policy deadlock that has plagued the world's third biggest economy since 2007.
Professor of Japanese politics Koichi Nakano said if LDP won the election it would be largely due to the population's unhappiness with the current ruling party.
"They say that it is going to be pretty much a sweeping victory for the LDP. That may be the case. But I find little enthusiasm among the people for the LDP so if that outcome is actually produced it will be more likely because of the popular desire to punish the DPJ and voting for the LDP because it is the alternative," Nakano said.
Surveys showed that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which surged to power three years ago promising to pay more heed to consumers than corporations and break bureaucrats' stranglehold on policy making, could win fewer than 70 seats.
An LDP win on Sunday would usher in a government committed to a tough stance in a territorial row with China, a pro-nuclear energy policy despite last year's Fukushima disaster, and a radical recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending to end persistent deflation and tame a strong yen.
Tokyo residents gave varying views on what would make up their minds.
"I'll be voting on issues like the rise of China and our dependence on nuclear power. I think they're going to cast a terrible shadow over the children of tomorrow. That's how I'll be voting," said 67-year-old pensioner Toshiko Maika.
"To deal with the things that matter to me Japan needs to find a new vigour. And that's only going to come from someone young, someone with energy," added 61-year-old Kazuo Akashi.
Japan's population is greying fast with nearly a quarter of the population over 65. Japan's annual social security bill has topped 100 trillion yen ($1.21 trillion).
This has contributed to the mountain of public debt the country has amassed at over 200 percent, the largest amongst industrialized nations.
For some voters faced with such a myriad selection of parties, their hopes are simple.
"I'm on my pension these days. I don't get that much from it, but, you know, I can get by. So all I want are politicians that don't lie to me," said 68-year-old pensioner Yoshimi Takashina.
If the LDP and the New Komeito control two-thirds of the lower house they could enact legislation even if it is rejected by the upper chamber, where they currently lack a majority.
Since 2007, no ruling bloc has had a majority in the upper house, which can block bills other than treaties and the budget.
But over-riding the upper house is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, so the LDP and its ally will be aiming to win a majority in the chamber at an election next July when half the seats are up for grabs.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None