Japan elects a new government as the ruling party seeks a fresh start.
On Sunday, Japanese voters went to the polls, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attempting to woo a pandemic-weary population with expenditure pledges, while his long-ruling conservatives seek a new beginning.
Kishida took over as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party a month ago, after Yoshihide Suga quit after only a year in office, citing widespread dissatisfaction with his approach to Covid-19.
Cases have dropped dramatically, and most restrictions have been eased, following a record wave of infections that forced the Tokyo Olympics to be held behind closed doors.
While this may placate some voters, analysts predict that the LDP, which has been in power nearly constantly since the 1950s, would lose seats and may struggle to maintain its sweeping majority.
To combat the impact of the epidemic on the world’s third-largest economy, Kishida, 64, has promised to launch a new stimulus package totaling tens of trillions of yen.
He’s also revealed proposals for a “new capitalism” that will redistribute money more equally, though the details are still sketchy.
However, according to Stefan Angrick, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, Japan’s 106 million voters have “struggled to get enthused about the new prime minister.”
“Kishida confronts headwinds from low approval ratings and a more organized opposition, but the Covid-19 situation is improving, and the economy is looking up.”
There are 1,051 candidates running for the lower house of Japan’s parliament.
Votes against the LDP have been shared between many main opposition parties in prior decades, but this time five competing parties have stepped up collaboration in an attempt to weaken the LDP’s grasp on power.
Nonetheless, Michael Cucek, an assistant professor of Asian studies at Temple University, told AFP that the LDP had “significant advantages” in Japan’s political arena.
“The electoral system is rigged in their favor,” he remarked, noting that the party has a sizable national following.
The LDP wants to move on from a rocky year, but “the fact that they are still having to battle so hard is incredibly embarrassing for them,” Cucek said.
Kishida’s political honeymoon has over, with popularity ratings hovering around 50%, the lowest for a new administration in Japan in two decades.
He has set an easy goal of capturing 233 of the 465 seats in the lower house, a simple majority that includes lawmakers from the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito.
Such an outcome, however, would be viewed as a defeat for the LDP, which previously held 276 seats on its own.
Even if the party wins, a low showing in the polls could result in losses. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.