Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More on Japan

Japan, the world's third largest economy, goes to the polls this sunday in an election focused on economic recovery.

The governing LDP has a right-wing stimulus package known as "Abenomics", named after the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Abenomics has proven somewhat controversial but also popular among some.

Abe, whose name is pronounced like "Ab-ae", called this snap election in the hopes of increasing his parliamentary majority, something polls suggest he should easily be able to do.

My most recent prediction is as follows:

322 - LDP +28 (govt, conservative)
77 - DPJ +20 (liberal)
30 - NKP -1 (govt coalition partner, right-wing)
21 - JCP +12 (communist)
17 - JIP -37 (right-wing, successor to restoration party)
8 - Others -28 (various others)

There are a few things of note here.

First; the LDP appears set to gain 2/3rds of the seats for themselves alone, quite a feat in a country with a form of proportional representation. Polls in Japan are done differently from polls here; rather than asking who the respondent will vote for, they ask which party they approve of. I've done some research in how to translate these sort of polls into the kind of polls we are familiar with. Rounding to the nearest 5%, here are the results of a recent poll:

LDP - 60%
DPJ - 20%
NKP - 10%
JCP - 5%
JIP - 5%

Japan's election system is a parallel PR system. 295 seats are elected by first past the post, like here in Canada. It is quite possible for the LDP to win 220 of these seats. A remaining 180 seats are elected proportionally, where the LDP may win 100 or more.

One thing I've noticed is that opposition parties tend to outperform polls. A raw math calculation tells me the LDP should win not 220, but 260 of the FPTP seats; however, I've assigned these other 40 seats to the opposition, as translating Japanese style polls into results tends to produce more realistic outcomes when this is taken into account.

The LDP however, does appear set and able to win their 2/3rds majority they want to be able to over-ride the upper house.

Secondly of note, at least to me, is the rise in the Communist Party. I can't see anything directly pointing to a reason in the rise, however, it appears to be a response to the right-wing economic agenda from the government, and the moderate to right-wing suggestions of the other opposition parties. Those wanting a left-wing answer in Japan seem to simply have nowhere else to park their vote in this election, and a vote for the Communist party may simply be a radical way of rejecting Abenomics.

I've also decided to include a bit on the personalities in this election.

Shinzo Abe
安倍 晋三
Shinzo Abe has been Prime Minister since 2012, and, has served as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007, during a string of PMs who lasted about a year each.

Abe is 60 and has a history of service in the LDP, having been in the cabinet of Junichiro Koizumi. Abe is the most right-wing PM in Japan's recent history and has taken stances that many call revisionist, and is what we would consider a nationalist by out standards.

Banri Kaieda
海江田 万里
Kaieda is a well known television personality; having hosted the news in Tokyo, and having played many comical roles on TV. He served in the DPJ government and nearly become it's 3rd and final Prime Minister, but lost the leadership vote 215 vs 177.

Kaieda appears to be a true small-l liberal at heart, supporting a moderate fiscal policy, while being openly for gay marriage and gay rights. He is 65.

Natsuo Yamaguchi
山口 那津男
Yamaguchi serves as leader of the hard-to-pin-down New Komeito Party. The party seems to rely partly on religious support, as well as on support for honest and ethical government, bit also registers as right of centre.

Yamaguchi has spent time in both the lower house and upper house, where he currently sits, and helps pass government legislation though the sometimes unfriendly chamber. He is 62.

Kazuo Shii
志位 和夫
Shii has been a member of the house since 1993, and has served in various high profile roles within the Communist Party since at least 1990, first getting involved in his years as a university student.

Shii, 60, could potentially oversee the best showing for the Communists in many years, and is hoping to top the 20 seats the party took in the 2000 general election.

Toru Hashimoto
橋下 徹
Hashimoto is the former co-leader of the JRP, a right-wing alternative that could be described as similar to Canada's Reform Party. Serving as the popular mayor of Osaka, he may find himself well positioned to gain an unusually high number of local seats for the JIP.

At only 45, he is the youngest of the major leaders, and after his split from the more well known JRP co-leader, Shintaro Ishihara, he has proven what he can do; as the latter party is hardly registering on polls. 

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