Abe's Lack of Support Costs Seats

Japan’s Liberal Democrat Party, the party of the current prime minister, has lost its majority in the Japanese Parliament’s upper house for the first time since 1955.

Riding on voters’ frustration with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Democratic Party of Japan won 60 seats out of 121 contested positions, bringing them to a total of 112 as a party and 140 as a coalition (alongside less mainstream, allied parties.)

Many news outlets and DPJ party members alike have called for the Prime Minister to resign. Abe, 52, was elected in September, Japan’s youngest ever prime minister.

“I’m ready for a rocky road,” Abe said after the results came back, “but we cannot go on without pursuing the reform track, and that requires commitment and plans. I’ve already promised reforms that must be put into action. I’ve kept my promises and I will continue to do so.”

Two widely-covered races in this election were those of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori and Yuko Tojo, the granddaughter of the Japanese general who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor. Neither politician won.

“I could not conduct election campaigning, and it turned out to be a regrettable result,” Fujimori told Kyodo news agency from his compound in Chile. A Chilean judge recently refused to extradite Fujimori to Peru on war crimes charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Losses for the LDP, who had held 133 seats at the last election, came amidst scandals involving two cabinet ministers and public pensions.

“Voters said we must reflect on our shortcomings and refresh the lineup,” Abe said. “I plan to reshuffle the Cabinet and top party posts at an appropriate time.”

Previous prime ministers have left their parties or positions when parliamentary elections showed clear opposition. Analysts in Japan, however, say that Abe will likely not leave, since there is no clear successor from the party.

Lower house elections do not begin until 2009.

“I cannot walk away even though the situation is extremely difficult. I decided [not to resign] because we cannot afford to create a political vacuum,” Abe said.

Abe’s second in the party, Secretary-General Hidenao Nakagawa offered his own resignation after poll numbers came back. Agricultural Minister Norihiko Akagi also stepped down, citing his own misconduct Wednesday as a factor for the loss.
"There is no doubt about the cause of the ruling party’s election loss,” Akagi said. “I feel very sorry, and I have decided to step down.”

Akagi took office in June after the previous minister committed suicide during investigations into his spending. Since being appointed, Akagi was allegedly involved in monetary misconduct, though he had denied these claims.

With the Democrat Party in power, Japanese support for U.S. military operations — particularly in Afghanistan — may diminish, as was part of the party’s platform.

“We have always been fundamentally opposed to extending,” said Yukio Hatoyama, who led the DPJ opposition from 1999 to 2002. “The upper house elections have shown the country agrees, and so we will be expected to keep that line.”

Members of both parties have started to strike out with the negative sentiment against Abe.

Ryosuke Hara, said that, now that the LDP “were defeated,” Abe “needs to take responsibility” for his part in the loss. “For him not to [resign] when everyone around is resigning would not go well with the people.”