Sat, Dec 13, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Japan elections set to boost Abe’s power

AFP, TOKYO

Japan is set to hold a general election this weekend that looks likely to return Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to power and might even give him the momentum to press ahead with badly needed structural changes.

Billed as a referendum on “Abenomics” — Abe’s signature plan to revive the economy — observers expect he will barely break a sweat in an easy victory.

Opinion polls predict the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner Komeito will sweep tomorrow’s ballot, all but unhindered by an unprepared and underwhelming opposition.

“Abe’s expected victory is the result of the self-destruction of the opposition,” Meiji University politics professor Shinichi Nishikawa said. “For many voters, there is no alternative but the LDP.”

“This is an election with no wind as non-partisan voters can’t find where to go,” said Koji Nakakita, a politics professor at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University. “It’s going to be a victory for the LDP without enthusiasm.”

A poll published by the Asahi Shimbun on Thursday showed the coalition would secure 317 of the 475 seats, giving it the majority it needs in the powerful lower house to force through legislation.

The Democratic Party of Japan, whose haphazard governance over the three years until 2012 left voters cold, could add a couple of dozen more seats to its tally of 62, but would remain ineffective, the opinion poll showed.

Sixty-year-old Abe still had more than two years left on the clock when he called the vote last month.

A new mandate from the electorate would give Abe a straight four-year run at some of the more difficult reforms.

However, if voters hand him too much of a majority, Abe might take his eye off the economic ball and press his less-popular projects, said James Schoff of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The best outcome would be a “Goldilocks victory by the LDP,” said Schoff, referring to a parliamentary majority that was not too big and not too small.

That kind of win would buy him “some extra time to move forward on the tougher economic forums that will be talked about, to be able to make a deal on [the Trans-Pacific Partnership], to go toe-to-toe with the farm lobby and maybe allow some multinational or big Japanese corporations to invest in agricultural production,” Schoff said.

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