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2013年5月 1日 (水)

参院山口補選 安倍政権の勢い映した前哨戦

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 30, 2013
By-election victory for LDP candidate reflects strength of Abe administration
参院山口補選 安倍政権の勢い映した前哨戦(4月29日付・読売社説)

Sunday's upper house by-election result appears to reflect the current strength of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration, which was inaugurated four months ago.

In the by-election of the Yamaguchi constituency of the House of Councillors--the first Diet election held since the second Abe Cabinet was launched--Kiyoshi Ejima, a first-time candidate on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket, won by a wide margin. His opponents included newcomer Hideo Hiraoka, a former justice minister endorsed by the Democratic Party of Japan.

Kingdom of conservatives

Yamaguchi Prefecture is where Abe's electoral district is located and is known as the "kingdom of conservative forces," with all four single-seat constituencies held by LDP members.

Ejima, who also was endorsed by New Komeito, waged a strong campaign.

Abe himself paid his constituency a visit to support Ejima, appealing to local voters' expectations for an economic recovery. "The only way to save the nation from deflation is the current path we're taking. Let's recover Japan's vigor from here in Choshu," Abe said, referring to the name of a feudal domain of the Yamaguchi district during the Edo period.

The Abe administration is working hard to rebuild the Japan-U.S. alliance in light of the growing threat of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, while China has repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters. Such a stance by the administration may have supplied a nice tailwind for Ejima.

On the other hand, Hiraoka advocated "rallying the strength of political forces to counter the LDP," and heavily criticized the Abe administration's Abenomics economic policy, Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord talks and the policy of amending the Constitution.

Yet Hiraoka failed to win wide support from voters.

The DPJ failed to build a campaign alliance with other opposition parties to fight the LDP by running an "independent candidate endorsed by the parties," led by the DPJ.

Supported by such politicians as former Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the DPJ, Hiraoka advocated "abandoning nuclear power generation" and attacked Chugoku Electric Power Co.'s planned construction of the Kaminoseki nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

N-issue did not catch on

Although Hiraoka attempted to present a common front with the Social Democratic Party and Midori no Kaze, or Green Wind Party, against nuclear power generation, the issue apparently failed to gain traction.

His stance of rejecting nuclear power, while presenting no prospect of securing alternative sources of energy, apparently failed to convince voters.

DPJ President Banri Kaieda, who considered the Yamaguchi by-election a prelude to the coming elections of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the upper house, appealed to voters by saying, "Let's say 'No to Abe politics' from this land of Yamaguchi," but to no avail.

The DPJ needs to rethink its campaign strategy for the upcoming upper house election.

As the result of the latest election, the LDP parliamentary group in the upper house will gain an additional seat. Meanwhile, DPJ members are deserting the party one after another. As a result, the DPJ, which holds the largest bloc in the upper house, may soon find itself tied with the LDP in the number of seats they hold in the house at 84 each.

Inevitably, the DPJ will see its clout in the management of the Diet business weaken, too.

It is even possible that more DPJ members may come to think they no longer have a fighting chance in this summer's election as long as they remain in the party.

Far from rebuilding itself from its devastating defeat in the House of Representatives election, the DPJ has instead been thrown into increasing chaos. It must squarely face the reality that it is failing to regain voters' support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2013)
(2013年4月29日01時10分  読売新聞)


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