The DJP won via a campaign of CHANGE. Will it be more of the same in Japan? Below is more information on the DPJ via the WSJ. The interactive media give a nice down and dirty on the election and voter opinions.
“”All things get harder when the government doesn’t have any political capital,” said the former U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, referring to the LDP’s plunging popularity during his tenure from 2005 until earlier this year. “Hopefully, this election will clear that up. … Hopefully, Japan will take a stronger role in the international community.” U.S. officials and analysts, however, say it will take time for a new government to be more effective. Much of the cabinet will lack governing experience. And while the Democratic Party of Japan won a handy majority at the polls, the DPJ is a sprawling left-right coalition unified as much by opposition to the LDP as support for any one policy.
“Though on the outside, they appear to be one happy family, there’s a lot of diversity, from conservatives to socialists” said Illinois Rep. Don Manzullo, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals with Asian issues. The DPJ has said it would revisit some of the details of the U.S.-Japan security agreement, including possibly demanding a reduction of military bases on the strategically important island of Okinawa.
Rhetorically, the DPJ has tried to show more distance from the U.S. than it has come to expect from Tokyo over the decades, when both sides called the alliance their most important in the world. In a widely cited essay published shortly before the election, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama wrote that Japan should “shake off U.S.-style globalization.” He said “the Japan-U.S. relationship is an important pillar of our diplomacy” — not the primary pillar — and suggested closer ties with Asia. An LDP loss — and American acceptance of the party’s fall — is an important symbolic turning point in ties between the two countries.
The U.S. played a major role in the creation of the LDP in 1955. It was the height of the Cold War, when Washington actively meddled in the domestic politics of countries around the world, seeking to prop up — and sometimes create — ruling parties that would join the global alliance against the Soviet Union. With Washington’s active encouragement, the LDP was created as the merger of two conservative parties — one led by Mr. Hatoyama’s grandfather — to keep Japan’s Socialist Party out of power. For nearly 40 years, Japanese politics revolved around the two parties, though for much of that time the Socialists never had a credible chance of taking power.
While the LDP was long a symbol of Japan’s close ties with the U.S., the party also came to represent growing tensions between the two countries, as the U.S. demanded Tokyo do more to open Japanese markets to foreign goods and services, and shoulder more responsibility for U.S.-led global priorities, such as the 1991 Gulf War. Americans complained that the LDP viewed the trans-Pacific alliance too passively, accepting the protection of the U.S. security umbrella without doing enough in return.
The end of the Cold War led to a reordering of Japan’s domestic politics in the early 1990s, when the LDP briefly lost power. It took more than a decade for a credible opposition party, in the form of the DPJ, to emerge. U.S. officials note that many DPJ leaders — including Mr. Hatoyama — began their political careers with the LDP before defecting to create a new party, suggesting that the new government isn’t likely to make any sharp break with the past. “They’re looking for more respect, a higher profile, and more inclusion in international affairs,” said Mr. Manzullo. “That’s fine. But there’s a very strong relationship between Japan and the U.S., and I don’t think they want to see that jeopardized.””
Photo credit: Junji Kurokawa/AP
View a slide show of voter’s opinions here.
View a timeline of the rise and fall of the LDP here.
Here is another video on the election with commentary by Tobias Harris.