Shinzo Abe’s party has been partly vindicated after the Liberal Democrats secured a majority in the snap election held on Sunday. Abe saw an advantage in calling a snap election after the collapse of a stable opposition. The most formidable challenge came from the fledging Party of Hope and the left-leaning Constitutional Democratic Party, both of which had only been in existence for less than a month. The Democratic party also split, defecting either to the Party of Hope, founded by Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Yuriko Koike or the Constitutional Democrats.
Although few would have expected anyone to mount a serious challenge for the Liberal Democrats this election is still quite important. If anything, it has emboldened Abe to pursue his controversial policy of transforming the Japanese constitution by revoking Article 9, which outlaws Japan to resort to war to deal with international disputes. The left-wing parties have tried to preserve article 9 while the right, which includes Abe have argued for the importance of making sure Japan can defend itself in the face of threats coming from North Korea and
However, Abe’s victory is not as clear-cut as his supporters would like to think, as it does not constitute a mandate. In addition to yesterday’s election having the second-lowest turnout in the Post War Period-although perhaps yesterday’s typhoon had something to do with this- Japan’s first past the post system means that it is possible to win a landslide victory without widespread public support.
Whichever way we interpret this election, it is certain that Japan is on the brink of completely changing the direction it has been going in for the past 70 years since the formation of their constitution.
Although the path to reform is not without its obstacles, Abe is now more determined than ever to achieve what he has been campaigning for since the beginning; the end of the era of pacifism and the reliance on U.S. support. With the history of World War II still fresh on many people’s minds throughout Asia this election victory may wonder whether it presages a time when Japan was a military power.
Perhaps the military restriction is outdated and Japan’s main interest is now in self-defense. North Korea is a threat which Japan will not be able to deal with given its current military capacity, a fact that is also one of the most convincing arguments in favor of Japan’s right-wing policies.