Legislative in Japan: unpopular, Prime Minister Kishida is already playing his post

The polling stations opened in Japan on Sunday, October 31, for the legislative elections for which some 106 million voters are called to decide between 1,051 candidates for 465 seats in the lower house of the Diet.

The new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who dissolved the House of Representatives on October 14, hopes to keep his post. In the previous legislature, the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD, nationalist right), dominating the Japanese political scene almost continuously for 66 years, held 276 seats and its ally, the Komeito party (center right), 29, or 305 seats in total. . Their coalition thus had a solid parliamentary base, allowing control of all the levers of power.

But the context has changed a lot compared to the last legislative elections in 2017. Shinzo Abe, who seemed stainless as prime minister, resigned in September 2020 for health reasons. His successor Yoshihide Suga lasted only one year, victim of unpopularity records due to his management considered clumsy of the health crisis and his desire to maintain at all costs the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

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A seventeen day campaign

Elected president of the PLD at the end of September thanks to the support of the party’s caciques, then appointed prime minister by Parliament at the beginning of October, Mr. Kishida, 64, does not enjoy great popularity in public opinion. It hovered around 50% in early October, one of the lowest for a new Japanese leader in twenty years.

At the end of a very brief seventeen-day campaign dominated by themes revolving around the pandemic and the economy, Mr. Kishida aims for the shortest absolute majority: 233 seats for the PLD and Komeito together . A way to save face even in the event of a significant loss of seats.

“We must show the public that the PLD is resurrected”, Mr. Kishida had launched after his election as head of the party. He promised to make the fight against Covid-19 his number one priority, but also to revitalize the economy and reduce growing social inequalities. However, he remained vague on the measures to achieve this.

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The PLD has long benefited from a historically weak and fragmented opposition. But for these legislative elections, five opposition parties will cooperate in many constituencies, which could theoretically weaken the PLD.

“Mr. Kishida faces headwinds due to low popularity and more coordinated opposition”, summarizes Stefan Angrick, economist at Moody’s Analytics.

An eye on participation

On the other hand, the PLD has large resources and remains a master in the art of controlling the electoral process, especially in rural areas. “There are personal links between the families of his candidates and the voters, which go back several generations”, reminds the France-Presse agency (AFP), Mr. Cucek, professor of Asian studies at the Japanese campus of Temple University.

Another asset for Mr. Kishida and his party: the number of Covid-19 infections has fallen in Japan (around 270 new cases daily on the last seven-day average), after reaching records in August under the effect of Delta variant.

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And after a difficult start in early 2021, the vaccination campaign in the archipelago has become a success: more than 71% of inhabitants have now received two injections, one of the highest rates among OECD countries.

Voter turnout, particularly low in Japan (53.68% in the 2017 legislative elections and 52.66% in 2014), will be closely scrutinized on Sunday. A high abstention traditionally favors the PLD.

The World with AFP

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Legislative in Japan: unpopular, Prime Minister Kishida is already playing his post