Japan’s Conservative LDP Sweeps Back to Power

Posted December 16th, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Japan's Liberal Democratic Party will return to power after a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, after being the opposition for three years.

Japanese broadcaster NHK says the LDP, led by former prime minister Shinzo Abe, won 293 seats and its coalition partner New Komeito 31 in the 480-member House of Representatives. That would secure a two-thirds' majority – enough to override the upper house, where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is the largest single party.

The DPJ, headed by current Prime Minister Yushihiko Noda, got only 57 seats in Sunday's elections. Mr. Noda promptly announced his resignation as party chief, acknowledging that the DPJ has not been able to meet people's expectations.

Commenting on the results, Mr. Abe said the people of Japan have said “no” to three years of confusing politics by the Democratic Party of Japan. He said people have been demanding the recovery of Japan's economy and that this will be his most important mission.

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Mr. Abe on his success and said he is looking forward to working closely with the new Japanese government. In a written statement, Mr. Obama emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance, which in his words “serves as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the region.”

The LDP, Japan's conservative nationalist party, has dominated the country's politics since the 1950s, with only a few brief periods in opposition. Mr. Abe last led the country in 2006, but he stepped down after a troubled year in office, citing health problems.

Analysts say the LDP win brings in a government promising a tough stance with China over territorial disputes in the Pacific, and government backing for a pro-nuclear energy policy, despite Japan's 2011 nuclear catastrophe.

Mr. Abe also has called for increased public works spending and an easy monetary policy to pull Japan's once-vibrant economy from its fourth recession in the past 12 years.

The country remains in a two-decade economic slump, and voter dissatisfaction in 2009 allowed Mr. Noda's DPJ party to wrest power from the conservatives. Since that DPJ win, critics say the party has failed to deliver on a series of promises, including vows to crack down on wasteful government spending, and promises of cash incentives to encourage young couples to start families.

Mr. Abe did not wait long after his election victory to raise the issue of Japan's claim on uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. He called the Senkaku islands “inherently Japanese territory,'' referring to the islands that China calls Diaoyu.

But he also said Japan does not intend to worsen relations with China.