Millennium Post

Test for Abe govt

On October 22, the Japanese voters would get the chance to accept another time or reject the five-year-old Shinzo Abe government, in the election for Japan's Lower House. After the launch of a new party by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and the effective disbandment of the numero uno opposition, Democratic Party – whose members had been shifting towards Koike's upstart part; this surprising development in Nagatacho had grabbed a great deal of public attention. The official campaign kicked off on Tuesday, the 12 days' campaign would elaborate on all of the parties' stand and substance before the voters for them to make a suitable choice in the ballot box. When Abe made up his mind, last month, to gamble on a snap election, he obviously had planned to catch the opposition off guard and maximise his Liberal Democratic Party's gains by holding the race while his opponents were unprepared. Hard on the heels of a leadership change, the Democratic Party was the scattered lot with the continuing exodus of its lawmakers. Abe's emphasis on North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and Japan's demographic challenges as 'national crises', and the need for a fresh mandate from voters to address them on a solid political footing, appear to be the most convincing reason for holding a sudden election. However, this move faced a major challenge, when Koike's new Kibo no To (Party of Hope) quickly developed into the main contender to Abe's ruling coalition by absorbing many Democratic Party lawmakers and candidates.
At first glance, the fledgeling party that is seeking to challenge Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition in the October 22 election, appears to be appealing to the populist sentiment. Her party promises to stop a planned increase in the consumption tax, while taxing big companies that stockpile cash, shake up the political system by cutting the number of parliamentarians and their salaries, and phase out nuclear power. The Party of Hope has even put the scourge of hay fever in its sights, with its inclusion on a list of 12 things the party aims to reduce to 'zero' level. Koike, a former Defence Minister who shares a lot of common ground with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party on security matters, has described her new Party of Hope as a 'tolerant, reform-minded conservative party'. But, since there is a limited demand for populism in Japanese society, along with a high social and a fairly stable economy, there are limited inroads of progressivism and limited demands for populism. And, it appears to be the cause of Abe's confident body language.
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