Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Japan election 2014-the day(s) after

RESULT: Liberal Democrat-New Komeito coalition returned to power, with two-thirds majority.

Original post

Well, it's all over, and the result has surprised no one. A comfortable win for Shinzo Abe, with 326 seats for his coalition in the House of Representatives. The result is a gain for the New Komeito-Liberal Democrat coalition of one on the current House and thirteen on the results of the last election.

The Liberal Democrats recorded a big increase in their vote. Under Japan's mixed-member majoritarian electoral system, they won 33.1% of the proportional representation vote and 48.1% of the single-member district vote, up from 27% and 43% in 2012. A very good performance by Abe, given that his party has been in power for a year of relative stagnation. The party did not gain seats, but the consolidation of the opposition vote meant that they did not have the split of the vote between the opposition parties that helped them in 2012.

The Democrats gained seats, in an entirely inevitable result. They won 73 seats in the 475 member House, a gain from the current House of 11 and from the last election of 16. This is a slight gain, but Democrats worried about a wipeout of their party can rest easy knowing that they appear to have a stable base of voters. The party won 18% of the proportional vote and 22.5% of the single-member district vote. The single-member district vote went down slightly from 23% in 2012, but the proportional vote went up from 15.5% in 2012. The Communist district vote went up, so perhaps leftist Democrats switched their district votes in safe Liberal Democrat seats.

The Innovation Party did well. They won 41 seats, down one from the previous House. They won about 15.7% of the proportional vote and 8% of the single-member district vote. Some of this support probably came from Your Party, which was disbanded before the election. Innovation and the right-wing of Your have some common positions, and Innovation appears to have got the majority of the vote from the 2012 Restoration vote.

New Komeito did well. I had expected them to lose seats as a backlash against militarist initiatives by the Abe government, but they gained 4 seats, and their vote went up slightly. They won all of the single-member seats that they contested off 1.5% of the single-member district vote, thanks to a non-competition agreement with the Liberal Democrats.

The Communists had a good night. They won 21 seats, a gain of 13 from 2012. Attempts by the party to moderate its political stances and to shift away from doctrinaire Marxism appear to be working, and they managed to win a single-member seat for the first time since the introduction of the mixed-member majoritarian system in 1993. The party won 13% of the single-member district vote and 11.4% of the proportional vote.

The Party for Future Generations did very poorly. The party attempted to trade off the personal popularity of 'spiritual leader' Shinataro Ishihara, but it flopped. They were unable to differentiate themselves from the much more popular Innovation Party, and lost most of their vote to them. They won 2 seats, 1.8% of the single member vote, and 2.65% of the proportional vote.

The minor Social Democrats did poorly, winning 2 seats. However, with their 3 upper house members, they have exactly enough members to form a parliamentary party, giving them funding and status in the Japanese Parliament.

Last, and almost certainly least, is Ichiro Ozawa's People's Life Party. This party, set up by former Democrat (and Liberal Democrat, and Liberal, and Japan New Party member, and New Frontier leader) was formed after poor results for the Tomorrow Party in the 2012 election. Ozawa was a key member of Tomorrow, and it has been speculated that his multiple scandals contributed to the downfall of the anti-nuclear Tomorrow Party. A lack of interest in the main issue for People's Life (nuclear power) and Ozawa's poor reputation meant that People's Life won 2 seats.

So, where is Japan's political system headed? Well, the Democrats are unlikely to return to government any time soon, but the Democrats are unlikely to disappear, and they are going to be the main opposition to the Liberal Democrats. The Communists will be a problem for the Democrats, as they are required by party rules to contest every single-member constituency, which will split the left-wing vote. Unless something astonishing happens, the Liberal Democrats will rule Japan for a long time to come.

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