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Aftermath of an Ambiguous General Election

Ambiguous AbeSNA (Tokyo) — Today Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will form his third cabinet since his December 2012 return to power. It will look an awful lot like the second cabinet, the only difference being that underperforming Defense Minister Akinori Eto will be dropped in favor of veteran hand Gen Nakatani.

So Japan’s “general election about nothing” will not even be accompanied by a significant ministerial shake-up.

The postmortems on Abe’s surprising decision to hold a general election this month paint a mixed picture. Did Abe win or lose? The evidence could be read either way.

In the win column: that Abe bought two more years of potential power for the LDP-Komeito coalition; that he maintained a coalition supermajority allowing overrides of the House of Councillors; and the fact that he has now led the ruling party to three major national election victories in only two years.

In the lose column: that Abe’s dependence on Komeito was reinforced; that his hard right non-LDP allies in the Diet were virtually wiped out; that the Communists will have a bigger voice in the national debate, and that the two remaining “mainstream” opposition parties—the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Innovation Party—now seem more likely to get their acts together.

The SNA had predicted that the Democratic Party of Japan would be the only major opposition party standing at the end of the general election. That turned out not to be the case. In the final days of the campaign the Japan Innovation Party made significant inroads after the abysmal polling they had initially received. They certainly did well enough to hint at future viability.

The big question now is whether the DPJ and JIP will fully merge, form an anti-Abe alliance but remain separate, or else fail to effectively coordinate the opposition ranks. We know that JIP leader Kenji Eda is eager for a merger, and so much will depend on the stance taken in coming months by the new DPJ leadership


General Election Results:

475 Total Seats in House of Representatives

Ruling Coalition Parties

291 seats – Liberal Democratic Party
35 seats – Komeito Party

Opposition Parties

73 seats – Democratic Party of Japan
41 seats – Japan Innovation Party
21 seats – Japan Communist Party


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