Japan’s politics take on a new twist later this month. The once-invincible Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, LDP, now the largest opposition party, will meet to choose a new leader. The winner could end up as the next Prime Minister of Japan in the next few months, which makes for an interesting race.
TOKYO (majirox news)– The LDP controlled the country almost uninterrupted for 53 years. They were defeated in the 2009 general elections by the Democratic Party of Japan and are now the biggest opposition party.
Five candidates for the leadership of the party held a debate on September 15. The winner of this election would almost certainly become the next Prime Minister if the LDP becomes the majority party in the next general election.
“Japan is facing a sagging economy, including a huge deficit,” said Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister. “It happened after the financial shock, then the March 11 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident. There are still 340,000 people in temporary homes. A new government is crucial to Japan’s recovery.”
Abe’s entry into the race has raised a few eyebrows. He resigned the post of Prime Minister in 2007, citing ill-health with an approval rating of under 30 percent. He says he is now healthy, and wants to take up the reins again.
The candidates did not include the present incumbent, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki. He recently struck a deal with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to pass legislation on tax and social security reforms.
Four of the five candidates also talked tough on the increasingly bitter dispute over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands, known as Diayou in Chinese, and controlled by Japan. Unlike Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, four of the candidates want to build a port facility and lighthouse on the islands.
All eyes were on frontrunner, LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara, who has held Cabinet posts. The attention comes because he is the son of outspoken Tokyo Governor Ishihara, who has provoked controversy in the past with nationalistic comments. Other former Ministers also running are former Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura; former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba; and Yoshimasa Hayashi, a former economic and fiscal policy minister.
“Our relations with China are at their worst ever since the normalization of the relations between the two countries,” he said. “Japan’s peace and safety have come under great threat. We need to protect our glorious land and sea.”
The outcome of this race could determine Japan’s long-term future. A general election is likely to happen soon, and the governing party is out of favor with the public.
Yuji Hirata, a businessman in Tokyo, said, “Every time the parties change presidents, nothing happens. They don’t have any clear policies and don’t think about the wishes of the people.”
If the LDP wins the next general election, or is in a position where it controls a governing coalition, the winner of this presidential race would then probably become Prime Minister. This party election could therefore have national and international consequences.