Raw Japan

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No Obama moment in Japan

August 28, 2009

Opinion polls show the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is set for a runaway victory in Sunday’s general election, but voters are showing none of the enthusiasm that swept Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency last year.

When I talked to more than a dozen voters in a small town near Hiroshima, western Japan,  they were interested in the election and had a lot to say about it. And most were looking for change — but not with a great deal of fervour.

Perhaps that’s because I was in Higashihiroshima, a conservative rural area surrounded by rice fields and known for its sake. The district has always voted for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that has ruled Japan for all but 10 months during the past half century.


The voters were also well aware of the raft of challenges, such as growing social welfare costs, facing a new government, and seemed to have low expectations for the Democrats.

“We can go back to the old way if the Democratic party fails,” 69-year-old Hiroaki Yamashita told me.

Still, they were pondering a once-unthinkable Democratic Party victory, not due to any wild enthusiam for the opposition Democrats but more so because they were fed up with the LDP.

“In the countryside, many people have been bound by personal connections with the LDP. But it is time for change,” 60-year-old Reiko Nishihashi told me.

“We have to let the Democrats take power,” she said at a rally by Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama outside a shopping mall, adding she had always voted for the LDP in the past.

It is a common story when talking to voters in Japan, who look past claims that the Democrats have yet to say where they will get the money to fund their campaign promises.

It may not be an Obama moment, but it may deliver a landslide for the opposition party on Sunday.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon


the ldp are a bunch of right wing extremists. maybe more right wing than the u.s. democratic party.

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