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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #310: September 12, 2005

Landslide Election Victory Gives Koizumi Go-ahead for Reform

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Landslide Election Victory Gives Koizumi Go-ahead for Reform
Guardian Unlimited,7369,1567693,00.html


Results of the general election - the ruling coalition grabbing 327 seats, within which the LDP winning 296, out of total 480 seats in the lower house - surprised literally everyone. Even Mr Koizumi himself, viewing the election results, said, "It is beyond anything we expected." It was indeed an overwhelming victory for Mr Koizumi and the "new" LDP.

The voter turnout was 67.52% across the country, up 7.66% from the previous 59.86% recorded in 2003. While it may not seem significant at a glance, it is actually an astounding phenomenon considering the volume of the mass involved, and the declining trend evident for decades reflecting people's apathy toward politic in general. Moreover, the increase of turnout was observed in every prefecture, without exception. The results of the election should be interpreted - however it pleases or not the self-proclaimed pundits and commentators - as the reflection of the people's active display of judgment.

Apparently the results were beyond expectation of even the most optimistic among the LDP. It is demonstrated in the fact that the LDP actually lost a seat because they ran out of candidates. In the race for proportional representation, which constitutes 180 of the total 480 seats, the winners are designated in accordance with the number of votes collected by each party. In Tokyo district, the LDP acquired enough votes for eight winners, but the list of candidates the party submitted to the election officials before the vote was exhausted when the seventh candidate was picked. In accordance with the rules, the remaining seat was effectively given up by the LDP and went to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP, which had five seats before the election, was thus able to add a seat, making it the seventh for the party. It allowed the SDP leader to say, "We have won the voters' confidence - to a certain degree."

Indeed, Mr Koizumi may have won more than what he really wanted.

The ruling coalition formed by the LDP and New Komeito won 327 seats out of 480, more than two-thirds of the total. Japan's constitution stipulates that if a bill passed by the lower house is rejected by the upper house, and the lower house again votes for the bill with two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law.

Remember that Mr Koizumi called for the snap election when his postal reform bill was supported - albeit barely - by the lower house but then rejected in the upper house. As there was no way for Mr Koizumi, as the Prime Minister, to exert his powers over the upper house, he chose to call for an election of the lower house, where the PM has the powers to dissolve, in order to ask for the people's voice.

As the ruling coalition now has the two-thirds majority in the lower house, the postal reform bill - or any bill for that matter - does not need the consent of the upper house for it to become law. It may seem there is nothing wrong with this for Mr Koizumi. But it may have deprived an opportunity for Mr Koizumi to "cleanse" the LDP in the upper house, because the old guard LDP, by acting obediently in the impotent upper house, would not provide a chance for them to be purged.

Another concern for the too big a win is in the course of Japan itself. What the opponents were arguing during the election campaign, that the postal reform is not the only element in Japan going forward, is to its extent undoubtedly correct. People voted for the LDP because they considered the postal reform was a necessary step, and so as to give power to Mr Koizumi to quickly get over the issue, stalled by old guards and vested interests, and get on with other challenges. The fact is that Mr Koizumi has not been very clear on his stance toward other issues, and he is stressing he will be stepping down in a year when the term of presidency for the LDP is due. (The presidency of the LDP has nothing to do with legality or public rulings, it is merely an internal by-law of the party.) As the term of the lower house would last for four years if not resolved beforehand, what would happen and where is Mr Koizumi going to lead us after the postal reform is set on its course, and that with such a powerful majority in the diet, is uncertain.

Of course this is not really a fault of Mr Koizumi. In fact it is the old guards and vested interests who are to blame, for a long time ignoring the people's desires and finally inviting the fierce backlash even Mr Koizumi and his supporters were amazed to see.

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