It was inevitable at some point, but after more than four years of dominating the political landscape, clear signs are emerging that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is losing its discipline and reverting to some of its bad habits of the past, before they were booted out of power in the 2009-2012 period.
In the closely watched mayoral election in Ginowan city, which hosts the controversial US Marines Futenma Air Base, conservative incumbent Atsushi Sakima won reelection to a second term. Mayor Sakima faced a stiff challenge from Keiichiro Shimura, who had the backing of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and the “All Okinawa” forces opposing construction of the US Marines airbase at Henoko beach.
With the passage into law on July 28 of the House of Councillors electoral district reform bill, there has been some amelioration of the wide disparity in the weight of individual votes. Nevertheless, many believe that the reforms of the new law as well are far too timid. It will still remain the case that one person’s vote in some prefectures will have the weight of almost three peoples’ votes in other prefectures.
The people of Okinawa vote unmistakably to end the plan to build a new US Marine airbase at Henoko beach with the election of Governor Takeshi Onaga. Signs are few, however, that the governments in Tokyo or Washington are prepared to listen.
Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s decision to approve construction of the planned US Marine air base at Henoko has won its fair share of admirers. Much of the international media has portrayed it as a “breakthrough” that resolves a long political “stalemate” that had plagued US-Japan relations for many years.
What follows is a party-by-party survey of what these elections mean for the twelve largest political parties in Japan. The ruling party’s 65-seat pick up was not all that it could have hoped for in light of the sky-high approval ratings of the Abe Cabinet, but it was definitely good enough to provide the basis of a stable government for the next three years.