The election for the House of Councilors will be held on July 21. All parties and candidates rushed to show up in major train stations and city-centers to beg the people to vote for them. In Japan, it is the politicians’ begging that often gets them seats in the respective House, not a clear explanation of policies or past achievements. The election here has more to do with voters doing favor for candidates so that the favor may be returned. That is the way the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has built its kingdom since 1955, and the trend, mutatis mutandis, will continue for a bloc of voters.
The only way to break through this unthinking political process is to increase the voting rate. The more independent voters participate, the less influence of the bloc of voters. In fact, the independent voters have been the major catalyst to push the politics beyond the impasse of the LDP in the 2007 election for the House of Councilors and the subsequent 2009 election for the House of Representative election.
Unfortunately, the voting rate is looking to be very low for the coming election. According to a survey held by the Nikkei, those who expressed their intention to vote for this election turned out to be 64%, compared to 69% for 2010 and 74% for 2007. The actual voting rate was 57.92% for 2010 and 58.64% in 2007. Moreover, the voting rate for the recent Tokyo Assembly election (June 23) was a mere 43.5%. In the past, the voting rate for the Tokyo Assembly election reflects that of the election for the House of Councilors, since the former is held immediately before the latter.
What do these numbers mean? The low voting rate means most likely that the LDP will have a landslide victory. The Nikkei survey shows thus as well. In addition to the low voting rate, a lack of clear alternatives to the LDP also contributes to their electoral advantages. Of course, a lack of clear alternatives does not encourage independent voters to participate. So it is a vicious circle.
What then is the implication? A natural and favorable outcome is the continued recovery of the Japanese economy since the reflationary policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan will have no significant impediment. That is good for the Japanese people. However, the LDP and the Prime Minister also have in their political agenda the revision of the current constitution. Regardless of the pros or cons for the revision, it will be a historic and major shift in Japanese politics. And should this sort of shift take place without the participation of the large number of the people of Japan? It will be so given the current trend in voting rate. The victory of the LDP in the coming election would give the party a stable political ground at least for next three years. Given that there will be no major scandal, Prime Minister Abe will remain in power and definitely move to pave the way for the revision of the constitution. So, ironically, this election will be a historic one resulting in historic change.
Again, I am not saying either the revision of the constitution is good or bad. We can discuss this matter at another occasion. The issue at hand is that the low voting rate and a lack of interest of Japanese people might result in one of the most historic political changes since the end of World War II. Do we have any way to change this political apathy and resignation to a fate-like future? I certainly hope so.