Upstart Japanese Right-Wing Party Surprises With Big Election Gains
(Bloomberg) -- The biggest gainer in Japan’s general election is a party favoring small government with roots in Osaka politics that’s now the third-largest force in the powerful lower house.
Ishin, a relative newcomer on the national political scene, went from holding 11 seats to taking 41 in the Sunday vote, scoring the biggest numerical jump of any party. Its four-fold surge likely came partially from disaffected ruling party supporters and from those who previously voted for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party.
The group also known as the Japan Innovation Party stands with the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party on matters such as revising the constitution and has pledged to use its power as an opposition group to prod the LDP, which has ruled for the country for all but four of the last 66 years.
On the campaign trail, Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui repeatedly pounded out the message of cutting “wasteful spending” and trimming the size of government. It sought younger candidates, backed removing limits on defense spending and favored changing the energy mix by phasing out nuclear power and increasing output from renewable energy sources.
The strategy paid off in attracting independent voters, according to exit polling from the Asahi newspaper.
The CDP’s share of seats dropped to 96 seats from 109 after it allied itself with smaller, left-wing parties, including the Communists, to field a unified candidate in many constituencies. Ishin didn’t join in and a lack of a coherent opposition seems to have had some benefit for the LDP, the paper said.
“The Japanese Communist Party probably played a role. I would imagine that’s where Ishin votes also came from,” said Stephen Reed, professor emeritus at Chuo University and author of numerous books on Japanese elections. “People said ‘I’m not voting for the Communists.’”
The nearly 100-year-old party that has been a part of parliament for decades is still subject to surveillance by Japan’s police, who call it “the largest revolutionary organization” in the country.
“I have been saying that Japan needs structural reforms and there are a number of people out there who agree with that,” Ishin leader Matsui said after the vote.
The message appears to have resonated with a segment of the electorate that is uncomfortable with the big spending plans of the LDP and the main opposition CDP, SMBC Nikko said in a research note Monday.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to draw up measures worth tens of trillions of yen soon after the vote, and told NHK on Sunday night that he wanted to pass an extra budget by the end of the year.
“The breakthrough of the Ishin means increased public support for the ‘small government’ route,” SMBC Nikko said.
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