Politics of Japan

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently had an unpleasant shock at the polls. He has made history by leading his political party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into a crushing defeat at the recent Upper House Polls. In one fell swoop, the opposition party, the Democratic Party, seized control of the upper house for the first time in its history. The poll outcome was a historic one because it could mean that Japan will truly have a two-party system for the first time. For the uninitiated, the LDP has enjoyed an almost uninterrupted period of power as the ruling party of Japan since 1955. It lost power momentarily from 1993 to 1996.

Japan’s government is a Parliamentary representative democratic monarchy. It sounds like a mouthful, but it is not too far from Singapore’s own political system, just replace the monarchy with the President. Of course, there are slight distinctions since Singapore’s President enjoys more powers than the monarchy, at least on paper. However, unlike Singapore, Japan’s Parliament has two houses, the lower house and the upper house. The upper house, which Abe lost, can block, direct and delay legislation. The lower house is elected by the people and considered to be more powerful than the upper house because it can override some of the latter’s veto decisions with a large enough majority.

Abe is a third generation politician. His grandfather and great uncle were both Prime Ministers of Japan, so he is considered by some to be of political ‘blue blood’. However, his policies to make Japan into a beautiful country and to revise the constitution and education system of Japan was seen as out of touch with the common man, leading to the disastrous outcome at the polls. The middle class of Japan was up in a furore when they realized that the LDP government had misplaced more than 50 million pension records. He also attracted attention from the international press when he said that Japan will not issue another apology for its World War II military brothels. He commented that none of the testimony in the court hearings showed solid proof that prostitutes were abused.

All this is not good news for Abe and may mark a period of political change in Japan. To quote one of the voters, Yoshihiko Seki, a 40-year-old businessman, who voted for the opposition party: “The LDP has sat on the top of politics too long,” he said, “I just want politics to change.”


1. Norimitsu Onishi, “Japanese prime minister resists calls to resign” International Herald Tribune, July 30, 2007

2. Chris Hogg, “Japan’s political ‘blue blood'” BBC News, Tokyo, Sept 26, 2006

3. “Japan refuses sex slave apology” BBC News, March 5, 2007

4. Geoffrey York, “Japan’s Abe loses control of upper house” Globe and Mail, July 30,2007.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: