Thursday, December 4, 2014

Update Japan election 2014-The end of Your Party

Japan's snap election, which will take place in about 10 days, has already caused the premature end of one political party. Your Party, a right-wing libertarian party once considered to be a possible third force in Japanese politics, was dissolved by a vote of the party caucus on November 19.

The party had been in disarray ever since half the caucus left to form the (you can't make this up) Unity Party. This party decided to merge into the Japan Innovation Party, itself a split from the nationalist Restoration Party. 

This month's NHK poll showed Your Party with 0% support. Given that 40% were supporters of 'no party', it seems unlikely that there is actually no support for Your Party, but given that they were at 3.7% after the 2012 election, it does show how poorly the party is regarded in the eyes of the public.

0% support rates in the NHK poll for certain parties are not an unusual phenomenon in Japan. The Green Wind party (sounds better in Japanese) managed a top percentage of 0.1% and 5 out of 7 polls in which the party were polled gave them 0%, while the New Renaissance Party managed to get 0% in all 7 polls in which they were included. The same poll had Ichiro Ozawa's People's Life Party on 0% and the Party for Future Generations (the Restoration members who didn't leave) on 0.2%.

This election is not a referendum on Abenomics!

The most common narrative about this election in the media is that it is a referendum on Shinzo Abe's economic plan. This is not acccurate. In a hypothetical referendum on Abenomics, there would be two options: yes or no.

In this election, the Liberal Democrats are the yes option. There is, however, no coherent no option. There are many parties that claim to provide an alternative to Abenomics. While the Democrats are obviously the largest alternative, the Communists (the biggest issue for the Democrats) and the Japan Innovation Party are the other two parties likely to make an impact.

The Liberal Democrats will be able to exploit this division. The Communist Party is bound by their constitution to run a candidate in each single-member district, which will split the anti-Abenomics vote. The Innovation Party do have the option of tactical nomination, but they will be unlikely to want to support a Democrat government. 

The small parties, like People's Life and Future Generations, will have no constructive role in this election other than one that distracts from the campaign of the large alternatives to Abenomics.

To be totally honest, there is virtually no chance of a Liberal Democrat loss. The 2012 election has shown that even a small vote for the Liberal Democrats can give them a majority. The Democrats can make some inroads into the Liberal Democrat majority, but I do not think that there will be enough for them to win.

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