The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition won a landslide victory in the snap election of the lower house on October 22, taking 310 out of 465 seats. With the added support of three independent legislators, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now controls over two-thirds of the house, which gives him the ability to pass most legislation without approval from the upper house.
Increasing tension with North Korea and concerns of demographic challenges due to rapid population aging have forced Japan to face an unprecedented crisis. When he dissolved the lower house on September 28, Abe claimed that he sought a fresh mandate to address these new problems. Prior to dissolving the lower house, Abe saw a rebound in his administration’s approval rating from a record low over the summer.
Three coalitions emerged during the election campaign: the LDP-Komeito coalition that currently dominates the parliament; the Party of Hope-Nippon Ishin no Kai coalition; and the left-leaning coalition of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), and Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Leading the LDP-Komeito’s traditional conservative coalition, Abe advocates for a tough stance on national security and North Korea, an increase in the consumption tax to 10 percent to address demographic challenges, a return to nuclear power generation, and a continuation of his signature fiscal reform package, Abenomics.
Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo and a former member of the LDP, left the party and formed the Party of Hope after Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament. With the dissolution of the Democratic Party (DPJ), the Party of Hope attracted the conservative wing of the DPJ and formed a reformational conservative coalition with Nippon Ishin no Kai. While the coalition adopted much of the LDP’s platform, it opposed the increase in consumption tax and any return to nuclear energy.
The JCP, CDPJ, and SDP formed the third coalition in the race. The center-left coalition concerns itself mostly with the constitutional revision agenda, supported by both of the conservative coalitions. While the CDPJ and SDP have participated with little success in Japanese politics for years, the addition of JCP, the socialist wing of the dissolved DPJ, may give the coalition a greater say.
Emerging victorious from the election, Abe may soon move on to changing Article 9 of the Constitution. In past years, the Diet, Japan’s parliament, has passed legislation permitting international deployment of the Self Defense Force (SDF) for the “collective self-defence of allies.”
Nonetheless, changing the constitution may not be as simple as it seems. Though Abe holds a supermajority in both houses and has support from the Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin on this issue, the Diet alone cannot decide the future of Japan. To revise the constitution, Abe must call a national referendum, and it remains uncertain how the Japanese population will respond to his desire to make the SDF an official army.