Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won the snap general election. The LDP won 290 of 475 seats in the lower house of parliament — the more powerful of the two chambers — roughly matching its performance two years ago, Together with its coalition partner, the Buddhist-affiliated Komeito, which won 35 seats, the LDP has retained the two-thirds majority necessary to pass legislation without recourse to the upper house.
Abe called the election, he said, to get a ‘mandate’ from the electorate for his so-called Abenomics. This is a set of policies of monetary easing, fiscal tightening and ‘supply-side neoliberal ‘reforms’ designed to get Japanese capitalism out of its stagnation. On the level of accelerating real GDP growth, investment and ending deflation, it has miserably failed (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/japan-the-failure-of-abenomics/). The economy remains flat at best.
But where he has succeeded is in reducing the real incomes of the average Japanese household and boosting the profitability of big business.
Under Abenomics, household real incomes have fallen 4%, while profits and profitability has risen 6-9% (if still below the peak of 2007).
But so far, this has been to no avail in raising business investment. Instead higher profits have been diverted into the stock market and property – the usual results of monetary easing and ‘labour reform’ everywhere since the end of the Great Recession.
Abe claims he has his mandate for more of the same. But the election results hardly show that. The snap election exposed the weakness of the main opposition Democrat Party that did not even run enough candidates to win. Even so, the DP increased its number of seats from 62 to 73. And the Communists doubled their representation. Abe’s LDP did no better than last time and the coalition with the religious Komeito will be in the same position as last time.
Indeed, the most significant figure in the election was the historically low turnout, down from the previous record low in 2012 of 59.3% to just 52.3%. Many Japanese citizens either did not see the point of the election or were not enamoured of any the major parties. Once again in an election in a major capitalist economy since the Great Recession, the NO VOTE party won. Since 2009, over 20m voters have stopped voting.
The estimated turnout is an all-time low since figures were kept in 1890! (see my post, https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/japan-election-lowest-turnout-since-records-began/).