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Abe seeking to hold dual elections

(Facta: January 2016 – p. 84-87)

 

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to convene the Diet on January 4 simply means that he has declared the House of Representatives will be dissolved on June 1 and the Diet will go into dual elections on July 10.

 

 Why does he want to hold the Lower House race at the same time as the House of Councillors election? Probably because he cannot find another opportune time to dissolve the Lower House while he maintains his influence. The biggest obstacle is the planned increase in the sales tax in April 2017. Since the tax hike is expected to draw strong public opposition, he won’t be able to call a snap election during the six months before or after it.

 

 The term of office for Lower House members will expire in December 2018. Abe’s presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party will expire in September of the same year. Generally speaking, he will lose his influence over Diet dissolution once his term ends in less than a year. Under such circumstances, the government may be pressured to dissolve the Diet depending on political or economic developments.

 

 But if Abe calls a snap election way ahead of time and pulls off a victory again, he may be able to extend his two three-year terms. Suppose the timing of dissolving the Diet and the expiration of his term in office, which will come in three years’ time, is calculated backward, he can dissolve the Diet still under his influence no later than the autumn of 2016. The Upper House election is slated to take place in July. So he judges it better to hold the elections at the two chambers on the same day.

 

 What drives the Abe government to hold the dual elections is incompetent public, media and opposition parties. The public initially objected to the security legislation, but in a month or so after the passage of the bills, the cabinet approval rate returned to normal. The media, on the other hand, used to run stories urging the public to fight against the government, but now they turn a blind eye. The opposition parties shirked the task of challenging the ruling camp and merely called for creating a new party or setting up a united front. While the opposition parties are slow to act and cabinet approval is improving, the government is rushing headlong into holding the elections on the same day before its economic policy flaws come to light.

 

 The government also wants to use the dual elections to deal a blow to the Japanese Communist Party, which has proposed dropping its own candidate and fielding a candidate to be supported by all opposition parties in the Upper House race. This strategy might work in the single-seat constituencies, but if the Lower House election is held on the same day, the race will become chaotic.

 

 Abe has a unique vision of democracy. During Diet deliberations on the security legislation, he jeered at opposition members who posed questions. After the enactment, he did not convene the Diet. There is no doubt he underestimates parliamentary debates. He repeatedly stresses that his victories in past elections prove his legitimacy in implementing policies.

 

 [Former Osaka Mayor] Toru Hashimoto gives an in-depth analysis: “Abe is supported because he does things despite criticism. However much he is criticized, he believes he can be only judged by election results, not newspapers, broadcasters, voters, or protesters.”

 

 Abe believes that people will follow him as long as he does things based on his strong conviction. And if he wins elections, his legitimacy will be acknowledged. That is how he perceives democracy. (Summary)

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