Monday, 15 December 2014

My analysis of the recent Japanese general election

Yesterday, readers, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, notable for his economic stance of 'Abenomics', called an early general election in Japan, despite the fact that the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), which has held power in Japan for most of the last 60 years, was losing ground in the polls.

However, as in 2012, he and the LDP won another landslide victory, with 290 seats out of 475, including three-quarters of the FPTP seats. (Japan uses the Mixed Member Proportional voting system for its House of Representatives, but there are 295 FPTP seats and only 180 PR seats). Even though the main opposition party there, the Democratic Party of Japan (which like Labour in the UK is not really that much of an opposition at all), gained an extra 16 seats compared to 2012, its leader, Banri Kaieda, ended up losing his own seat. I believe this can partly be blamed on the rise of the Japanese Communist Party, which increased its seats from 8 to 21, its best result since 2000. Meanwhile, Japan's new Green Party (kind of, at least), the People's Life Party, which supports environmentalism, is opposed to nuclear power, and is opposed to the dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), could only win two seats, which incidentally were both FPTP seats. In MMP systems, Green Parties traditionally perform better on PR lists rather than in single member constituencies, Germany and Hungary being notable examples of this.

Mr Abe's decision to go to the polls in December also had a serious knock-on effect on general election turnout; according to BBC reports, turnout overall dropped to as low as 35% (although the exact turnout figure has not been verified yet for some reason). Turnout was not much better in 2012, though, at 59.3%-by comparison, the 2010 UK general election's turnout overall was 65.1%.

One major problem with Japan's democracy is ability to stand as a candidate. For a start, a deposit of 3,000,000 yen has to be paid to stand in a FPTP district, or 6,000,000 yen for a PR list seat, and the threshold to retain said deposit is 10%, not 5%. That is approximately £16,100/£32,200 at current yen-pound sterling exchange rates! Secondly, because of the fact most districts' boundaries have not been changed properly for many years, urban FPTP districts in Japan can sometimes have an electorate up to five times that of rural FPTP districts. This lack of fairness in Japanese politics is partly why the right-wing and conservative LDP has been able to dominate Japanese politics most of the time-why should any party, let alone an independent, have to pay tens of thousands of pounds just to be a somewhat credible candidate? Democracy should be about popular support and useful ideas, not about which candidates are fortunate enough to be able to raise the most money.

I believe following on from this that if Japan accepts the TPP (at least in its current form) that notably the negative effects of 'Abenomics' will be worsened still for most Japanese people.


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