Tokyo assembly poll foreshadows result of upper house elections
The results of the June 23 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, with about 10 million voters, will be a harbinger of results in the House of Councillors election scheduled for next month.
A major issue in the metropolitan assembly election will be what judgment parties make on Abenomics, the economic policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.
The official campaign period for the election starts Friday. However, the de facto election campaign is already overheating, with presidents and senior officials of political parties running to and fro in Tokyo.
The metropolitan assembly election attracts a lot of attention because in the past it has often foreshadowed the results of national elections held soon afterward.
Will history repeat?
In the previous metropolitan assembly election of 2009, for instance, the Liberal Democratic Party suffered a crushing defeat while the Democratic Party of Japan made a remarkable breakthrough to become the assembly’s largest group. It was as if the poll projected the results of the House of Representatives election the following month, which brought about a change of government.
In the upcoming metropolitan assembly election, the LDP is trying to become the largest party in the assembly again and to secure a stable majority with its partner New Komeito.
Their success or failure will likely predict whether the two parties will win a majority of seats in the upper house election, thus ending the divided Diet in which opposition parties control the upper house.
“[Abenomics] has drastically changed the dark, thick cloud and [negative] atmosphere that had covered Japan,” Abe said during a street speech in Tokyo. “If we keep this course, the economy will grow without doubt.”
The so-called third arrow of his economic policy, following bold monetary easing and flexible fiscal policy, is growth strategy. Since its outline has only just been announced, it should be allowed time to bear fruit.
However, what kind of road map to economic recovery is the LDP going to draw? The party needs to provide more detailed explanations.
Meanwhile, DPJ President Banri Kaieda stressed risks of Abenomics during his street speech. Abenomics “will raise prices, increase people’s burdens and destroy their livelihoods,” he said.
However, if he only stresses the disadvantages of Abenomics, it will not constitute convincing criticism. We hope Kaieda will engage in a substantial debate with the LDP by presenting a specific counterproposal to Abenomics.
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is losing steam due to remarks by its coleader Toru Hashimoto on so-called comfort women. Your Party, which had been building a coalition with Ishin no Kai, decided to cancel their cooperation in the metropolitan assembly election after Hashimoto made the remarks. The same situation is seen in the upper house election. Attention should be focused on what judgment voters will make on the so-called third force political parties.
In the metropolitan assembly, the LDP and Komeito are ruling parties supporting Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose’s government. The DPJ, the largest group in the assembly, is also strengthening its position as a quasi-ruling party.
There thus appears to be no major issue of local Tokyo politics on which the election is likely to turn. How will voters without any party affiliation, who abound in urban areas, respond to the situation? Low voter turnout is one troubling possibility.
Tokyo facing challenges
In fact, however, the metropolitan government faces more than a few challenges. One of them is to make Tokyo more resistant to natural disasters as soon as possible. For instance, the metropolitan government must make a plan to deal with the huge number of people who would be unable to go home due to paralysis of public transportation after a major earthquake. It also must take fire prevention measures in residential areas crowded with wooden buildings.
Another urgent task for the metropolitan government is to reduce the number of children waiting to enter public day care centers and develop facilities for the elderly.
The metropolitan assembly election should be considered as an opportunity to think not only about Tokyo’s relationship with national politics but also about those specific challenges the nation’s capital is facing.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2013)