Populism, Japanese-style

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party's unlikely electoral 'weapon'

It is election season in Japan and voters are in for a double-bill treat, first with a spring premiere of local elections this month, followed by a summer blockbuster of the Upper House national elections. As the Golden Globes is the bellwether for the Oscars, so are the mayoral and gubernatorial elections to the national ballot in Japan.

On paper, the incumbent ruling coalition government led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) looks indomitable. Save for two minor aberrations in 1993 and 2009, the LDP has had an iron grip on the country since the turn of World War II. That said, if there is any chink in the LDP's armour, other than those arising from internal strife and scandals, it lies in voter behaviour in local elections. The polls become outlets for voters to vent their frustration over the flagging economy and government scandals, and have handed the key economic and population centres of Osaka and Tokyo, and the geopolitically strategic region of Okinawa, into opposition hands.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'LDP's unlikely electoral 'weapon''. Print Edition | Subscribe