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Japan vote decision a bit of a tough one

August 21, 2009

JAPAN-ELECTION/If the woman who works in my dentist’s office is anything to go by, some Japanese voters are having a devil of a time deciding how to vote in an election just over a week away.

Pollsters are predicting that the opposition Democrats will win by a landslide, ousting the conservative party that has ruled for nearly all of the past half-century.

Surveys show, though, that at least one in five voters is undecided, while another chunk might change their minds at the last minute.

“I’m really perplexed,” the dental assistant told me as I finished a less-harrowing-than-feared session in the chair this week.

“I really used to like Kakuei Tanaka when I was a kid,” she said, referring to the former Japanese leader credited by many with perfecting the system that kept the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in power with pork-barrel spending, close ties to business and bureaucrats and well-oiled local political machines.

“The LDP used to have an image as being strong,” she said. “Now, I don’t know.”

The decision of voters like her could either take the edge off an expected Democratic Party win or inflate it further, but analysts say the trend looks unlikely to change.

That’s perhaps less because voters are thrilled with the idea of a Democratic Party government than because they’re fed up with the LDP after having backed it big time in the last election in 2005.

Then, charismatic leader Junichiro Koizumi’s pledges of reform sparked a groundswell of enthusiasm that swept the LDP to a massive victory.

Koizumi stepped down the following year, and three prime minister’s later, many who wonder what became of the promised ”change”  figure it’s time to give the decade-old Democratic Party a chance.

Some of that backing for the opposition falls well short of exuberance.

As Tomoharu Tada, a former miner who now drives a taxi in Fukuoka, southern Japan, put it: “It’s not that the Democrats are so good, but it’s time for a change.”

Photo credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Comments

I think many voters are turning away from LDP because of environmental issues. Last year the G8 summit in Hokkaido was all about climate change and sustainable development. Then the financial crisis hit: if you look at Japan’s car industry advertising, every ad now includes the word “eco” (and most of money for the US Cars for Clunkers went to Toyota, Honda, and Nissan) – so which party is going to provide that change that people are expecting? Energy issues, food security/food safety, and welfare (including pensions, that LDP has totally failed to show voters that they can handle) may not be easy for DPJ to tackle, but voters at least feel a glimmer of hope.

 

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