Japan Chair Platform: Don't Count Abe Out
July 30, 2007
The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a real beating in Sunday’s Upper House election, winning only 37 seats to the opposition Democratic Party's 60 seats. The opposition now controls the Upper House of the Diet and from that position can slow down legislation and make life much more difficult for the government. Absent realignment of the political parties, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) may not recapture the Upper House for six more years.
Reading the press one would think that Mr. Abe’s days are now numbered. There is certainly a precedent for Abe resigning to take responsibility for the LDP’s loss, since Prime Ministers Sosuke Uno and Ryutaro Hashimoto both stepped down after the LDP had comparably poor showings in Upper House elections (36 seats for Uno in 1989 and 44 for Hashimoto in 1998). Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Ichiro Ozawa is also expected to block legislation in the Upper House and force a stalemate so that Abe has to dissolve the Lower House and hold national elections, where the LDP could take another drubbing. Some media are portraying the defeat as a direct repudiation of Abe’s more assertive national security policies, suggesting that he has no agenda left to implement now even if he stays.
However, as Mark Twain might have said, these rumors of Abe's demise are premature.