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Abe, LDP Take Japanese Elections

Japan’s election results are in, and the vote has gone as expected. As most predicted, the Liberal Democratic Party have won elections handily, taking power from the Democratic Party, which has cycled through three Prime Ministers over the past four years. Now, the charismatic, nationalist LDP leader Shinzo Abe will assume the premiership for the second time in five years. But despite a wide margin of victory, Abe appears to be proceeding cautiously:

This result doesn’t mean that public support for the LDP has 100 percent recovered,” Mr Abe told NHK. “It’s a rejection of the last three years of political confusion. Now it’s up to the LDP to live up to people’s expectations.”

The sentiment is shared by others in the country:

“It’s not that support for the LDP has grown so much, but rather that support for the DPJ has totally collapsed,” said Koichi Nakano, a politics expert at Sophia University.

The LDP and its ally Komeito have won between 302 and 345 seats in the parliament’s lower house. 320 seats would hand them a two-thirds supermajority, allowing them to push legislation through the Diet virtually unabated.

It’s still not clear what this means for Japan, but a look at Abe’s campaign platform offers some clues. Abe’s platform had three main planks: massive public spending, “unlimited” monetary easing, and reform of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

It is this third plank that is most interesting. Abe’s desire to remove Japan’s military fetters has been a long time in the making: His grandfather, prime minister in the late 1950s, staked his premiership on just this issue. Abe has inherited his grandfather’s passion for making Japan a more “normal” country militarily, but in contrast to his previous administration, Beijing’s agressive foreign policy may give him a popular mandate to act on this issue.

If Japan does begin to militarize, it would be a major development in the Game of Thrones, strengthening the growing anti-Chinese coalition in the pacific. But like all nationalist upticks, there is a risk of going overboard, as extreme nationalist parties like Shintaro Ishihara’s Restoration Party are also gaining ground in parliament. The mix of militarism and extreme, anti-Chinese nationalism increases the danger that minor conflicts over disputed islands in the Pacific could blow up into something much uglier.

Only time will tell, but Japan may be on the cusp of some serious changes.

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