I know we have some Japan folks on PWI... what do you all think? What's going to happen? Was this all Aso's fault or can a lot of the blame go to Fukuda and the rest of the party? Any predictions for tomorrow? Will they crash and burn or will there be a surprise do you think?
Personally, I haven't been following much for the last year, mostly because I hate Aso. This election should be interesting. While I don't like Aso personally, I also don't really support the other parties non-market policies either... I can't wait to see what will happen.
[i]Braced for changed
Aug 28th 2009
Japan prepares for political upheaval after SundayÃ¢??s general election
IN A land of volcanoes and earthquakes the seismic shift is all too common. But for decades JapanÃ¢??s political landscape has not reflected the countryÃ¢??s geological uncertainty. A general election on Sunday August 30th should change all that. Opinion polls suggest that when voters go to the polls for the powerful lower house of the Diet (parliament), the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), will trounce the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), thus ending over 50 years of nearly continuous rule.
The magnitude of the defeat facing Taro Aso, the prime minister and LDP leader, is startling. A poll in Thursday's Asahi Shimbun suggests that the LDPÃ¢??s representation in the Diet could be more than halved to about 100 seats. The DPJ could take as many as 320 of the chamberÃ¢??s 480 seats.
JapanÃ¢??s political fault-lines have opened up despite an election campaign that has hardly caused tremors. As it got under way nearly two weeks ago, there was something quaintly old-fashioned in the absence of television hoopla. Even the two main candidates for prime minister, Mr Aso and Yukio Hatoyama of the DPJ, have resisted tearing into each other. And in a country otherwise obsessed by mass-media, a ban on internet campaigning also recalled a bygone era. But if the LDP thought that keeping politics off the web would thwart the opposition, which enjoys more support from younger, wired voters, as some DPJ politicians claim, it seems to have failed.
In a recent survey, support for the DPJ was more than twice that for the LDP among the young. But strikingly, an even bigger share of votersÃ¢??a whopping 38%Ã¢??said they were undecided. These flighty voters, referred to as yawarakai hoshu-so, or Ã¢??flexible conservativesÃ¢??, are the kingmakers of Japanese politics. Typically in their 30s, they are university-educated, middle-class, prefer stability to big changes and do not care much about politics. But they tend to vote as a block, and can sway the outcome of elections. They played a large part both in the landslide victory in 2005 of Junichiro Koizumi, a former prime minister, and the LDPÃ¢??s upper-house defeat two years later.
Their opinions fluctuate wildly, but they can be decisive. The lesson for the 2009 election is that winning the Ã¢??flexiconsÃ¢?? is crucial. To this end, the DPJ has put forward youthful, telegenic candidates; typical LDP candidates are in their late 60s and have little to say on matters affecting younger voters. Mr Hatoyama has also borrowed Barack ObamaÃ¢??s successful appeal for Ã¢??changeÃ¢??. The DPJ says evicting the ruling party will break the stranglehold on the budget held by mandarins, giving it freedom to cope with JapanÃ¢??s ageing population, the low birth-rate and a dangerously lopsided, export-oriented economy.
Mr Aso has questioned the DPJÃ¢??s ability to pay for expensive campaign promises, such as a Ã?Â¥26,000 ($280) a month child allowance to push up the birth rate, heavily subsidised schooling, dropping road tolls and income support to farmers. But these counter-attacks may not be enough to quell votersÃ¢?? dissatisfaction with the long rule of the LDP and the leadership of gaffe-prone Mr Aso as economic conditions remain difficult. Although JapanÃ¢??s economy has started to grow again, figures released on Friday showed that unemployment had crept up to 5.7%, the highest level since the second world war.
Whether the DPJ, an unknown quantity, can make a better fist of running the economy is open to question. Mr Hatoyama railed against American-led Ã¢??market fundamentalismÃ¢?? preferring a woolly-sounding concept, that he calls fraternity. He says it means that activities such as agricultureÃ¢??already heavily protectedÃ¢??will not be left Ã¢??at the mercy of the tides of globalismÃ¢??. Businessmen fear the noises coming from the DPJ that seem to promise more worker-friendly policies such as banning the use of temporary labour in manufacturing and raising the minimum wage. The DPJ has also promised to loosen JapanÃ¢??s close ties to American foreign policy. So if SundayÃ¢??s election produces the political earthquake predicted the next question will be whether the DPJ is capable of delivering a series of aftershocks too.