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The 2009 Japanese election
A landslide win for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, Minshutō)
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Article added on September 1st, 2009

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
The 2009 Japanese election has finally brought a landslide win for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The anomaly of a one-party rule in a democratic country since 1955 - with a 10-month break in 1993 - has finally come to an end.

Japanese voters have resisted change for decades, not only because they are extremely cautious, but also because the opposition never seemed a credible alternative.

The man who brought the long needed change, Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's designated prime minister, is himself a former member of the long-time ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Born in Tokyo in 1947, Hatoyama is a member of “Japan's Kennedy family”. His paternal great-grandfather was a speaker of the Diet of Japan during the Meiji era. His paternal grandfather served as prime minister and founded and headed the now-defunct Japan Democratic Party, which merged with the Liberal Party in 1955 to form the LDP. He is the son of the former foreign minister
Iichirō Hatoyama (1918-1993) and of Yasuko Hatoyama (born in 1922), the wealthy daughter of the Bridgestone tire maker founder Shojiro Ishibashi. She is nicknamed “Godmother” for her financial contributions to the political ambitions of her family. Yukio Hatoyama's younger brother, Kunio, served as Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication under Prime Minister Taro Aso. With such a pedigree, Yukio Hatoyama was the right man to bring “change” to the anxious Japanese.

Yukio Hatoyama graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1969 and received a Ph.D. in managerial engineering from Stanford University in 1976. He met and married his wife, Miyui, a former actress and cook book author, in Stanford. They have a son, Kiichiro, according to the Japan Times currently a visiting engineering researcher at Moscow State University.

Yukio Hatoyama worked as a research assistant at the Tokyo Insitute of Technology before he joined Senshu University as assistant professor. He began his political career in 1986, when he was elected to the House of Representatives for the ruling LDP. In 1993, he left the LDP to form the New Party Sakigak
e. In 1998, he joined the newly founded Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, Minshutō), a merger of several center, center-left and left-wing opposition parties. According to Asahi Shimbun, party leader Yukio Hatoyama belongs to the Seiken kotai wo Jitsugen suru kai faction of his party, formed by defectors from the LDP. It is only the DPJ's third largest faction.

Hatoyama, the son of one of Japan's richest families, presented himself as the lawyer for the little people. Will this well-connected man from a political family be able to transform his stagnant country? We will soon find out.

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Japan's economic crisis which finally brought political change

The world's second-largest economy, Japan, has been in an economic crisis since the recession of the 1990s. It's economy grew less than 1.1% since the year 2000. Wages are stagnant. The population grows older and older. Japan's public debt amounts almost to a staggering 200% of GDP, a negative record in the industrialized world. Luckily, it's citizens are record savers and not indebted like American consumers. The fiscal deficit is around 10% of GDP. The Japanese exports faltered in recent months. Workers had to accept pay cuts. The retailers registered a drop in sales. Unemployment has reached a 5.7% post-war high. Japan is still struggling with deflation, which reached an alarming 2,2% in July. In the list of the richest industrialized countries, Japan has dropped from the number 4 spot to number 14 in just two decades. With such a record, the pale Taro Aso had no chance to win the 2009 election.

The DPJ's electoral platform included a restructuring of the civil service, including pay-cuts and layoffs, monthly allowances to children (also to help fight Japan's shrinking population), free tuition for public schools, a raise of the minimum wage, a lower gas tax, no more highway taxes, more government money for farmers and no increases of the sales tax in the coming for years. In short, a pretty populist electoral agenda with no clue how to finance it. Little to no information could be found about how the DPJ intends to fight Japan's economic crisis.

The designated Prime Minister Hatoyama announced that he will cut back the power of the omnipresent bureaucrats. The politicians should regain control over the country's finances. A newly created Office for National Strategy should develop new strategies and policies. Hatoyama intends to fight the collusion between bureaucrats and LDP politicians.

On the foreign policy front, Hatoyama's pledge to make Japan more independent from the United States made some waves, although he assured voters that keeping close ties to the U.S. will remain a cornerstone of his foreign policy. The United States still have stationed some 50,000 troops in Japan under a mutual security pact. Before the election Hatoyama declared on TV: “Until now, Japan has acted to suit U.S. convenience. but rather than doing so, Japan-U.S. relations should be on a equal footing so that our side can strongly assert Japan's will.”

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The 2009 Japanese election results

On October 30, 2009 the Japanese voters made history by offering the oppositional DPJ a landslide victory. The strong voter turnout of 69,3% shows that the Japanese meant business. This was not just another election.

Since the
July 2007 upper house election already, the DPJ controls the House of Councillors. The House of Representatives, the lower house of the Diet of Japan, has 480 seats. 300 seats are direct mandates. 180 seats are awarded in a proportional representation (block seats). The DPJ managed to win 42.4% of the votes and 308 seats. Their allies, the Social Democratic party (SDP, Shamintō) and the People's New Party (PNP, Kokuminshintō) won 4.3% and 7 seats respectively 1.7% and 3 mandates. The DPJ won 195 mandates more than in the last lower house election. The SDP stagnated and the PNP even lost one seat. The DPJ-SDP-PNP coalition now controls 318 seats in the 480-seats House. It only fell 2 seats short of a two-third majority.

The ruling LPD and its ally, the New Komeito Party (NKP, Kōmeitō) only managed to persuade 26.7% of the voters and to win 119 seats respectively 11.5% and 21 mandates. The LDP lost staggering 177 seats and the NKP 10 seats. The pale Taro Aso will step down as the LDP's party leader.

Many active and former LDP ministers lost their mandates. Among the prominent losers are the former prime minister Toshiki Kaifu, the now ousted finance minister Kaoru Yosano and the former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.