Did the overwhelming defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan's upper house elections signal a wind of change sweeping through the Japanese political landscape, a groundswell of support for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), or was it simply a long-overdue rejection of “business as usual”? As the election came to a close on Sunday night and early results started to appear, there were no lack of interpretations offered to explain what had been widely predicted beforehand.
When the dust settled, the ruling LDP/New Komeito coalition was left with only 105 seats in the upper house versus the 137 seats held altogether by the opposition parties. The LDP in particular only managed to reclaim 37 of the 64 contested seats it held prior to the election, whereas the DPJ surged ahead, capturing 60 of the contested seats from the mere 32 it held pre-election. Of particular note was the unprecedented degree to which DPJ captured single-seat districts, LDP strongholds historically perceived to be unassailable due to unflinching support from rural voters; the LDP managed to win only 6 of the 29 contested single-district seats, whereas the DPJ, overtaking support in rural areas, came away with 17.
Seats won in Upper House elections (note: New Komeito ended up winning one more seat, bringing their total to 9).
As some have noted, the results of the election offered a mixed bag of new faces [Ja] and crushing defeats. While Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori failed in his bid on the People's New Party ticket, 31-year-old Kawada Ryuhei [Ja], the HIV-positive independent candidate infected by tained blood, won his seat — a sign, perhaps, that the so-called “Lost Generation” has come of age. Then again, candidate Otsuji Kanako, running on the Democratic Party ticket, lost in her bid, putting an end to hopes that the National Diet would see its first openly gay member [Ja].
Bloggers have, not surprisingly, offered mixed reactions to the election results. While some have voiced support for the DPJ and their leader Ozawa Ichiro, others have argued that the DPJ victory is grounded more in dissatisfaction with the LDP — and, in particular, palpable anger and frustration over the pension fund fiasco — than anything else. One thing that most seem to agree on, however: given the long and largely unbroken history of LDP control, the emerging contours of the post 7/29 Japanese political landscape are very difficult, at this point, to predict.
Posters for Upper House Elections
On the night of the election results, many bloggers were commenting on the coverage itself, which was nonstop and dominated airtime on nearly every channel. Blogger Sota complains:
As election results became clear, many bloggers offered their thoughts and reactions. Blogger Sasamoto Kenji expresses his surprise at the scale of the LDP defeat, and offers a possible explanation:
Other bloggers reflected on the victory of the Democratic Party of Japan, some voicing skepticism and apprehension about the change:
LDP poster featuring Prime Minister Abe Shinzo
The decision of Prime Minister Abe to hold onto his seat, despite exit polls showing a majority of Japanese people want him out, did not go down well with Japanese bloggers. Blogger hanahanasakura opens a post on the topic of Abe's decision not to stand down with the following thoughts:
The look on Abe's face in television coverage left an impression with many bloggers. One blogger expresses surprise:
The Liberal Democratic Party… I thought they were going to lose, but… Prime Minister Abe … the way he averted his eyes left an impression on me…
Blogger Middle Earth, in a post entitled “I saw it! Abe had a face like he was about to cry,” (見たぞー安部の泣きべそ顔) writes:
Why? Because the Liberal Democratic Party lost decisively, hehehe.
For one thing, when I was watching TV, I saw Prime Minister Abe with a face like he was about to cry (and still is now).
I had so much fun! ♪
If they handle things badly, then the people may quickly turn their backs on them, so they better do a good job!!
Finally, blogger Spiral Dragon, in a blog entry entitled “Abe Jong-il, dissolve the lower house immediately!” (安倍ジョンイルは直ちに衆議院を解散せよ！), minces no words when comparing Prme Minister Abe to North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il: