By Ii Shigeyuki
In the 49th House of Representatives election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won an absolute stable and simple majority alone, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio will continue to lead the government in a coalition with Komeito. While the LDP put up a good fight, exceeding prior expectations, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), which had appealed to voters for a change of government, including “cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in an CDPJ-led government [if realized] from outside the cabinet,” lost a large number of seats. Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), which had distanced itself from the opposition united front, attracted votes critical of the government.
There were only 17 days between the Lower House dissolution and the casting of votes and vote counting, which is the shortest interval in the postwar period. Both the ruling and opposition parties focused on policies of redistribution of wealth and did not deepen the policy debate over the specific path of economic growth that would be the source of redistribution.
The Sankei Shimbun wrote, “Prime Minister Kishida and the LDP must take the election results seriously,” taking into account the fact that the party lost seats in the Diet. The paper added, “At the same time, the government and the LDP must not stand still in implementing policies as the Upper House election will be held next summer.”
“We hope that the government will reflect on the slackness of the long-term administration and manage the administration with a sense of urgency,” the Yomiuri Shimbun wrote. “That is the will of the people expressed in the latest general election.” The daily added, “As the Upper House election will be held next summer, it is the prime minister’s utmost responsibility to ensure political stability so that a short-lived administration will not be repeated,” calling on the prime minister to tackle policy issues.
On the other hand, the Mainichi Shimbun pointed out, “Prime minister Kishida, who has been in office for less than a month, has no track record, and the focus [of the latest Lower House election] was on whether he could change the politics led by former Prime Ministers Abe Shinzo and Suga Yoshihide.” The paper stressed, “During the nine years that started from the Abe administration, there were a series of events that undermined the public’s trust in politics, and Prime Minister Kishida must understand that he cannot regain the lost trust in politics by only taking small steps.”
The Asahi Shimbun cited the following challenges: “Restoring trust in politics by squarely confronting the harmful effects of the nearly nine-year-long politics led by Prime Ministers Abe and Suga; restoring the Diet as a place of parliamentary debate and constructive dialogue with opposition parties; seeking solutions for the various domestic and international challenges Japan faces. The daily emphasized, “The true value of Prime Minister Kishida’s ‘polite and tolerant politics’ will be put to the test from now on.”
In contrast, the Sankei reported on the CDPJ, which lost a large number of seats, saying, “The CDPJ, which cooperated with the JCP and other parties in the election, fared poorly, and the CDPJ should realize that cooperation outside the framework of the cabinet with the JCP, which has different policies, will in fact close off its path to power.” No matter how severe its criticism of the LDP, that will not demonstrate its ability to take power.
The Yomiuri also criticized the CDPJ, saying, “The CDPJ, as the largest opposition party, must take seriously the fact that the party did not receive enough votes.” The paper went on to say, “As cooperation with the JCP drew opposition from some private-sector labor unions, the CDPJ will have to review the course of its joint struggle with other parties toward the Upper House election and demonstrate that it has the ability to take charge of the government.”
In addition, the Mainichi criticized the CDPJ for “failing to heed the will of the people despite their growing dissatisfaction with the current state of politics,” and stressed, “The CDPJ must examine its tactics for electoral cooperation with the JCP.”
The Nikkei, which cited measures against COVID-19 and economic revitalization as future challenges, wrote, “While it is important to provide support to people and companies in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, policies of the redistribution of wealth such as uniform benefits are of uncertain effectiveness and are not an option to be taken in light of the nation’s severe financial condition.” The paper argued, “It is essential to come up with a medium- to long-term vision to achieve economic growth and fiscal reconstruction.”
The general election this time was characterized by the unprecedented prominence of policies of redistribution of wealth such as consumption tax reduction and income tax reduction. These election pledges, however, did not necessarily influence voting behavior, and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party For the People (DPFP), which called for “reform,” won a certain level of support from the people. Both the ruling and opposition parties need to discuss their policies with a sense of responsibility.