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.
RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE: People must wear a mask when outdoors, while employers should allow working from home or flexible hours, Chen Shih-chung said The Cabinet yesterday extended a nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert until June 28 as the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported 211 locally transmitted cases and 26 deaths. The CECC on May 15 issued the level 3 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City, saying it would last until May 28. Four days later, it expanded the alert to the entire nation before announcing on May 28 that the alert period had been extended to Monday next week. The latest extension was announced following a disease prevention meeting at the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday morning. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung
PRIORITY GROUPS: A line of people were waiting at the Good Liver Clinic, apparently to get shots, while the CECC announced more priority groups for jabs The Taipei-based Good Liver Clinic is to be fined NT$2 million (US$72,028) after giving free COVID-19 vaccine shots to people not in groups eligible to receive them, Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said yesterday. The Zhongshan District (中山)-based clinic was removed from the city’s list of vaccination venues and health officials would be investigated for giving 1,113 doses to the clinic, Huang told an afternoon news conference at Taipei City Hall. The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) on Tuesday in an exclusive story citing an anonymous tip reported that a Taipei clinic was doling out unused vaccines. People in
PHASE 2: The firm’s CEO said that the results were good and the experimental vaccine safe, but added that hoped-for phase 3 trials would be expensive Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗) yesterday reported positive results from an interim analysis of phase 2 trials for its COVID-19 vaccine, saying that the vaccine demonstrated high seroconversion rates and geometric mean titer (GMT) figures. A seroconversion rate is the percentage of participants in a trial displaying virus-specific immune memory after being given a vaccine, while the GMT measures the level of neutralizing antibody response, Medigen said. The experimental vaccine has a seroconversion rate of 99.8 percent and its GMT was 662 among the participants aged 20 to 89, while the gauges rose to 99.9 percent and 733 respectively in participants aged
NUMBERS HAVE FALLEN: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said there are good signs, but ‘we cannot afford to let our guard down now’ The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 219 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and 22 deaths. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the 219 local infections — 117 male and 102 female — were aged from under five to over 100 years old, and they began having symptoms between May 22 and Monday. New Taipei City reported 123 cases, followed by Taipei with 54, Miaoli County with 16, Taoyuan with 13, Keelung with eight, Changhua County with two, and one each in Hsinchu City, Taichung and Tainan. The 22 deaths were 15 men and