Voting underway in Japan general elections

Last Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 09:19

Zeenews Bureau

Tokyo: Japan went to polls in general elections on Sunday with increased speculations that Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe might oust Democrat Party of Japan (DPJ) Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda government, as per BBC report.

The ruling DJP came to power in 2009 after routing LDP which has been in office for almost 50 years, the report said.

Voters have soured on the ruling DPJ, which won a landslide victory in 2009 but could not deliver on a string of campaign pledges. They are also upset over PM Yoshihiko Noda`s push to double the sales tax, a move he argues is necessary to meet rising social security costs as the nation rapidly grays, as per news agency report.

Disillusionment with politics is running high in Japan, as is confusion over a hodgepodge of small, new parties that have sprung up in recent months espousing a variety of not always coherent policy views. One has a nationalistic image, while another is staunchly anti-nuclear, tapping into grass-roots opposition to atomic power in the wake of last year`s disasters in Fukushima.

With Japan stuck in a two-decade economic slump and pressured by an increasingly assertive China, voters may be turning back to the LDP, which guided the country for most of the post-World War II era, after taking a chance on the Democrats and being let down. The DPJ failed to carry out numerous promises, including cash handouts to families with children, eradicating wasteful spending and moving a controversial US military base off of the southern island of Okinawa.

The country must also cope with an aging, shrinking population, a bulging national debt and intensifying competition from Asian neighbors such as South Korea, Taiwan and China, all of which have territorial disputes with Japan.

One upstart party that is drawing a fair amount of interest and could be a part of a ruling coalition if the LDP doesn`t get a majority is the populist, right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, led by two of the country`s most outspoken politicians, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who at 80 is nearly twice Hashimoto`s age. Both exhibit forceful — critics would say dictatorial — leadership styles. The party also wants to amend the constitution to elect the prime minister by popular vote and abolish the less powerful upper house of parliament, but is divided on nuclear power.

The brand new Tomorrow Party, led by a female governor, Yukiko Kada, wants to eliminate nuclear power plants within 10 years, opposes the tax hike and advocates more money for families. But its image has been tainted by linking up with former DPJ power broker Ichiro Ozawa, whom many Japanese voters don`t trust.

If the LDP wins the most seats, the hawkish Abe would almost certainly get a second stab as prime minister. He would be Japan`s seventh prime minister in about 6 1/2 years.

(With Agencies Inputs)



First Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 09:09

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