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Political changes in Japan? The keys to a game that always wins

With more than six decades directing Japan, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party faces the elections this Sunday convinced of revalidating its mandate thanks to the approval of the young people and the weakness of the opposition.

The pandemic, the controversial Olympic Games, the slow rate of vaccination or the recent fall of a prime minister could provoke a democratic change of direction, but in Japan the long life of the PLD and the chains dragged by the fragmented opposition do not predict major electoral surprises. .

In 2017, only 53.68% of voters went to the polls. Why bother if the same people always win? The opposition runs to scratch votes from the all-powerful ruling party, while analysts point to a collapse of its majority.

Indefinite success

The ruling party is an aristocratic club where surnames contain decades of history.

The charismatic former Prime Minister Abe is the grandson and son of political figures. The current prime minister, Kishida, arrives with a family pedigree. Meanwhile, colleagues like Kono or Koizumi are already emerging for future leaders due to their lineage.

“The generational inheritance has weighed on Japanese democracy for three or four generations,” says Donna Weeks, a political science professor at Musashino University in Tokyo, in an interview with Efe, although she clarifies that now young people “feel comfortable” rather than by the person, with the PLD itself.

Since its founding in 1955, a single party has dominated the archipelago with a ten-month hiatus in the 1990s and a term from 2009 to 2012.

A power that is difficult to unseat due to the fragmented opposition – with a varied discourse of the center-right, socialist or communist – that carries the stigma, for many Japanese, of being weak and incapable of governing.

Political memory of the disaster

The political weight of the management during the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, when the opposition ruled, still beats in the collective memory.

“In 2011, my students were very young and they saw Abe come out of it with strength. This first political experience is key, ”says Professor Weeks of the younger generation of voters, children a decade ago.

During the nuclear crisis that kept the country in suspense, Yukio Edano – today the leader of the Democratic Constitutional Party that heads the opposition – was the voice that appeared on the screens of homes. The politician did not give up his career and formed this new party in 2017.

“The opposition parties are working together better than before and this could have an effect,” says Weeks, although he believes it will not be enough.

Face choices

Just two months ago, the PLD saw the elections in danger, Suga resigned as prime minister and the historical system of the formation was put into operation.

“The factions act as different parties in one. Four candidates came forward to preside over it and you think of four different formations and a democratic competition, ”explains Weeks.

A strategy that has resulted in an image renewal just when popularity dropped a month after the elections.

“Kishida has in his favor that there is no state of emergency, the level of infections and vaccination have improved and it is also Halloween. In Japan, the festive atmosphere is very important ”, affirms this expert on factors that would influence the participation.

However, Kishida’s hesitancy in reversing some suggested economic measures “could direct the voters’ gaze to other candidates,” he says.

According to the latest polls, what will most influence the citizen vote are the economy (54%), pensions and the welfare system (48%), the coronavirus (40%) or support for education and raising children (36 %). Only 3% believe that gender equality and diversity matter.

The opposition is willing to change two important demands that have occupied the debate in recent years: keep the last name when marrying (and not adopt the woman’s that of the man as is customary) and approve homosexual marriage.

The PLD has no intention of egalitarian changes and knows, furthermore, that it is not a priority for the voters either.

Fourth power

It is an open secret that Abe sided with the mainstream media, avoiding criticism. During his long tenure, Japan was descending positions in press freedom, currently in a compromised position according to Reporters Without Borders.

“Journalists who struggle to fully exercise their role as counter-power against the weight of traditions and economic interests complain that there is a general atmosphere of mistrust and even hostility towards them,” the organization states in its annual report.

Takeshi Taniguchi, a Japanese journalist, confirms to Efe the lack of freedom and the rarefied atmosphere that exists in the press clubs (kisha clubs), although he also believes that many Japanese citizens and companies “do not want to change” their government.


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