Japan: Return of the Right

Print edition : January 11, 2013

Shinzo Abe, newly elected Prime Minister.-TOMOHIRO OHSUMI/BLOOMBERG

JAPANESE voters handed the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a landslide victory in the elections to the lower House of Parliament on December 16. Its leader, Shinzo Abe, will be sworn in Prime Minister on December 26. The LDP will be ruling in coalition with another right-wing partythe Komeito. Together they will be holding more than 320 seats in the 480-member Parliament.

Abe had briefly held the top office in 2006 and resigned under controversial circumstances after a few months, citing health reasons. He is a scion of the political elite. His maternal grandfather was Nobusuke Kishi, the Japanese Prime Minister responsible for the signing of the 1960 defence agreement with the United States. It had led to widespread public protests in Japan at the time. Kishi was also a Minister in the militarist government during the Second World War and was imprisoned for three years during the U.S. occupation that followed Japans defeat.

The biggest loser is the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP). It got only 57 seats as against more than 280 in the last elections. A new right-wing party, the Japan Restoration Party, came third with 53 seats. The anti-nuclear party, the Tomorrow Party of Japan, formed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, was spurned by the voters.

The DJP had broken the LDPs monopoly on power by sweeping the 2009 elections on a platform promising a clean break from the past. The party failed to keep its promises, including that of shifting the U.S. military base in Okinawa. The DJPs handling of the Fukushima crisis and its aftermath had come in for wide criticism.

Abe campaigned on a right-wing nationalistic agenda, highlighting the territorial disputes the country has with China. The China Daily described Abe as a war-monger with dangerous designs. His campaign slogan was Take Back Japan. Abe has said that he is leading a fight to to free the Japanese nation from the post-War history and return it to the Japanese people.

The people of East Asia and South-East Asia have not yet forgotten the havoc wrought by Japanese imperialism before and during the Second World War. Just before the Japanese went to the polls, Abe had made a highly publicised visit to Yasukuni shrine honouring Japans war dead. China, South Korea and other countries in the region have angrily protested against Japanese leaders practice of visiting the shrine.

John Cherian
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