Victors and others of like mind have a name for the landslide victory DPJ clocked in Japan; the term is seiken kotai, this when interpreted simply means “regime change”. On the thirtieth day of august, 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had a stunning victory in the elections that were conducted in Japan. This is a victory that brought to life more than fifteen years reform decades that had been structured but not implemented. Whether for the conservative twist among the Japanese voters or due to the long standing of the Liberal Democratic Party monopoly and its pork barrel that it used in buying voters, the party bounced with a legislative majority after being in the opposition for a short stint in 1993 and the following year, 1994. Finally, the majorities in DPJ who were in the upper house in 2007 and in the house of representatives in 2007 brought to light and signified an epochal twist in the politics of Japan. However, the honeymoon was to come to an abrupt end leading to the observers resuscitating on LDP’s inevitable dominance.
Lessons from the August 2009 Elections
Judging DPJ’s dominance in the political arena would also be considered a very great mistake. The landslide victory DPJ encountered in the 2009 election was not the major issue; the epoch making facts lay on the new setting i.e. electoral background that came into existence in 1994 which indicated that an alteration of normal government was a possibility. Though the DPJ swept the unprecedented and kicked the LDP from power, the young party is was to face a number of challenges as it navigates a transition that can be termed to as perilous and leading to heel of bureaucracy.
Nonetheless, the election week to the 30th of august was swept by the fever of change. This fever was considered decisive and on the 45th election to be conducted in Japan, the young DPJ pocketed 308 se4arts of the possible 480 seats in the strong and power House of Representatives. The once considered invulnerable LDP was only left with 119 seats. This, a complete reversal of what had been evidenced in the past four years where DPJ was left with 113 seats after the powerful LDP had swept 296 seats.
From this outcomes, it is a vivid reminder to the both the politicians and the common man of the powers that are possessed by the voters which can bring a new definition of a nation’s political landscape and change overnight especially with the new single seat system. The political wave in Japan in 2009 led to ousting LDP from a position it had enjoyed since its formation. On the other hand, thirteen years after its formation, DPJ was able to gunner a decisive win in an election it had only participated five times and taking over power with a solid majority number of House of Representatives.
As noted by Martin, since the end of the Second World War, there is no single party that has ever managed to bring about the form of transition that was ushered in by the DPJ, from an opposition party to a ruling party of choice single handedly. Similarly, since the history of the Japanese nation, there was no time when its prime minister was voted for through the ballot. This is why the elections that were conducted on august 2009 remain an historical watershed for the nation.
History Made By DPJ
As put by Gaunder, there was an inevitable windstorm that swept the Japanese politics in the last general election. It can be noted that ion the previous election conducted, DPJ had only won a single seat in the urban Tokyo district and losing 24 of the seats to LDP. However, in the 2009, 21 of the urban constituencies’ seats belonged to it. On the other hand, LDP was satisfied with four seats. The same case was to be reflected in the neighboring Kanagawa prefecture, DPJ won comfortably won 14n seats and the remaining four seats were taken by LDP. It should not be forgotten that in the previous election, DPJ had lost all the eighteen seats to LDP.
The massive win by DPJ was not the only news that was lingering in people’s minds and mouths; the voter turnout was also superfluous. Since the advent of single seat district, the turnout of 69.28% approximately about 70.58 million ballots was the highest in the history Koellner. In this votes, DPJ won 37.47 votes i.e. 47% of the total votes cast while 38% or 27.37 million votes were cast for LDP. Surprisingly these results are considered a mirror reflection of what had gone down in 2005. The same history was made by DPJ when it came to local seats, the party jumped from the 52 seats won in 2005 to 221 seats in 2009, LDP was not lucky too in this section, the party dropped from the 219 seats won in 2005 to 64 in 2009.
As asserted by Gaunder, there is no single time that a general election has wrought a very dramatic change and shift and the constituent of the smaller house, this is a change that goes beyond the affiliations of the party. The convening of the lower Japanese house was a political milestone that DPJ had travelled as almost thirty three of its seat occupiers were first time politicians; this is the highest percentage since the end of the Second World War. The milestone traversed by DPJ is however evident as 46% of its member in the lower house are first time politicians and thus responsible for the one largest party bloc. This is a contrast with LDP that has only five first timers thus not being any striking.
Another political milestone is on the number of women elected as representatives, there were fifty four women who were elected into the offices, the largest in the Japanese history. Of these women 70% which is equitable to 40 women are DPJ members and most were considered the assassins of LDP by the chief election strategist of DPJ, Ichiro Ozawa. The election of the women and the role that they are expected to play in politics is expected to change the perspective that they have often been accorded. It has been asserted that Japanese women have played meager roles in the nation’s politics in relation to their western counterparts. DPJ has however set a new pace that ought to be emulated by other parties if this perception is to be changed.
The young look that has been accorded to the house or representatives thanks to DPJ cannot be overlooked. DPJ comes into play with an average age of 49.4 of its members, one of the lowest any major party has ever recorded. Most of the party’s lower House Representatives (75%) are either first, second or third timers. However, it is asserted that despite this youthfulness look of its leaders, the party is expected to receive a lot of challenges when it comes to running the nation and achieving the numerous expectations and satisfying the people. This is a major drawback that is assumed to be encountered by the youthful DPJ politicians. Unlike the LDP’s 70 veteran lower representatives who have been in politics for at least four full terms, DPJ only brags with fifty one representatives. As asserted by Koellner, merit and individual competence may not be gauged on the number of years one has been in politics, knowhow and experience is indispensable for the DPJ’s if they are expected to bring the change they long preached about.
Queries have been raised regarding the youthfulness of the DPJ’s representatives. Of much essence is its ability to wrest power from the bureaucrats and back to those who have been elected, to be in charge of the government’s operations and run the government as they promised. With the promise it rendered to the people of delegating one hundred of its politicians and making them oversee the administrative apparatus, one is left to wonder how possible this can be. Questions on how the party (DPJ) will be able to savvy bureaucratic mirrors and smoke and keep the public servants in check are unavoidable. It should also be remembered that DPJ has the least number of politicians of the zoku giin who have constantly been associated with the dominance of the LDP politicians; as a result it is clear that DPJ’s legislators lack the expertise that is categorical for administrative issues. It is considered a tough exercise coming up with the resource that can bring about control and bypass the knowledgeable and confident bureaucrats.
Transition - The Navigation of Waters That Have Been Unchartered
Under the laid down circumstances, it was clear that the Japanese prime minster had a heavy task lying ahead of him especially in relation to choosing its cabinet. The prime minister had given a promise of not only ensuring that specialists in specific disciplines were tapped, but he also wanted people who had the health of Japan in their heart, people who were willing to discuss the nation’s policies and the matters affecting it. The leaders of DPJ were not interested to fall in the same trap that involves constant reshuffling of the cabinet. According to them, the prime minister was at the verge of making many political enemies and weakening the power of the party each time ministers were changed or reshuffled. In the words of DPJ, such an exercise was responsible for division and confusion in a party.
Before the new party formed it is own cabinet, there were the likeliness of the party forming a coalition. Though DPJ had experienced an over slide win, it lacked a majority of representatives in the house of councilors. To overcome these discrepancies, the party was looking at the possibilities of forming a coalition with political parties such as the People’s New Party and the Social Democratic Party. Similarly, the coalition would boost the party’s house of representative two thirds majorities which would be essential if the party was to override most of the legislative issues that would have to be brought on its floor.
DPJ was sure that without the coalition proposal, controlling the house of councilors and that of representatives would easily fall to gridlock. The parties that DPJ was interested with informing a coalition have shown interest as long as they are given an opportunity to play some critical roles in the cabinet. These are important negotiations which would have easily founded had the positions been decided on in advance. With these views and perspectives in mind, the new prime minister announced that all decisions related to personnel would be arrived on at the same time.
As it is already clear to everyone, the appointment of ministers is not a simple exercise; this is an activity that cannot be compared to selecting those leaders who will lead the opposition. A single false step and wrong move can jeopardize the whole exercise. It is because of this, that experts asserted that the prime minister needed strong and sound leadership decisions in reliance of his personal judgment and in the midst of party factions and clamor and the members of the coalition demanding for their share of the cake. By looking at the unfolding in 2001, it was evident that the public was electrified by the bold deviance of the party leaders when PM Jun’ichiro Koizumi chose total outsiders for his first cabinet. It was wondered whether Hatoyama was bold enough to do the same, this would in return be used to gauge him and his mettle to see whether he has what it takes to be a leader.
On the angle of LDP, there was no disguise on the anguish it had been cast to by DPJ. One after another, the political heavyweights of the party were seen falling and losing to telegenic young novices from DPJ, people who had been drafted as giant killers. This even led to the then prime minister conceding defeating and giving it a description as very severe. LDP had finally been expelled from office after holding the office for over fifty four years.
Changes Associated With DPJ’s Electoral Victory in 2009
As noted by Martin, the central theme that marked the electoral period in Japan could be compared to the one that dominated the political arena of the US a year ago, the theme of change. DPJ’s president was in the fore front trying to paint his party as the party responsible for the change the people direly were in need of. It is without dispute that this manifesto was able to put the party in the national polls that were being conducted before the elections; change according to DPJ was what the Japanese wanted. LDP had been in charge of running the nation since 1955 and country’s endemic malaise is asserted to have forced a public that is complacent politically to boot the party out of the reign.
The 2009 unfolding was regarded as the country’s seminal period in modern history leading to a drastic transformation of the nation’s rule and politics. However, it is not considered a joy ride for the new party in power, with the depilating Japanese economy, a lot is expected by the citizens and this may prove to be a very big challenge for DPJ. Economic observers are not interested in seeing a government by DPJ coming with guns blazing as that of Obama, it’s important that the new government addresses those areas that are of great essence and effect to the general man. The government should have in place a clear map that will take Japan to long term and robust growth.
Japan has experienced the same things for a very long time; the election of DPJ into taking control of the country is a sure indication that the country is tired of being presented with the same things for a very long time. It is thirsty for change. Though the nation reacted very well to the recession that hit the entire globe and boosting a growth of 0.9%in its first quarter, it is still eager to overcome the economic sterility that it has been faced with in the past two decades. It can be recognized that in the periods between 1960s-80s, Japan had the fastest growing economy in the world rivaling the US at some point.
However, the economy has been limping for a long period now, something that needs to be changed. DPJ is considered the channel through which this new economy deal shall be brought into the nation. With the party in power, people are anticipating for a Japanese economy whose financial position is stable and in control. The growth and stability of the economy is also supposed to look at its export market and the various things it can do to prevent the over reliance on exports for its growth. DPJ promises to develop the nation’s domestic market. To be able to achieve this, programs that are geared towards deregulation and reform policies are to be enacted especially those that harbor competition. Similarly, policies that will encourage entrepreneurship are considered vital in encouraging the local industries and other business opportunities.
DPJ proposed a number of policies that would address the many problems that were facing the people and the economy as a whole. The party was promising to overhaul the country’s budget. For instance, it was going to review the public works project and slash costs on civil service. Supporting and encouraging small enterprises was also core of their manifestos that was considered to bring change. In addition, DPJ was geared towards weakening and entrench bureaucracy in the government while at the same time alleviating the middle class costs.
DPJ promised very numerous changes one of them including a $3,300 annual stipend for each family and their young children, free and compulsory education, support for farmers and eliminating tolls that have been enacted on the highways. A new economy is what DPJ promised to the people. Irrespective of the attractive proposals that DPJ has promised its citizens, analysts are considering eh outcomes to be short run, these proposals according to them will not be in a position of tackling the serious and deeper problems in the nation especially regarding its economic status. With these commitments, the party is geared towards providing its citizens with the type of leadership that they have long been waiting for and ensure that the needs and expectations of the entire Japanese citizens are satisfied.
DPJ is aware that the loss LDP incurred in the august elections was due to the dissatisfaction of the people with it. This is a mistake that DPJ would not want to find itself in. simply put, the results were not an indication of the strong support DPJ has from voters, neither their confidence in their policies, but it is an indication of the strong wave that political parties will be facing if they do not deliver to citizens. A core change that people were interested in seeing after DPJ claimed power was reform processes. People wanted to see reforms taking place and ensuring that the power is delegated to the people i.e. the politicians and not the bureaucratic classes. To achieve this, DPJ established a Bureau of National strategy which is under the direct supervision of the prime minister to ensure that he objective is brought to light.
From the picture that has been presented here, it is apparent that the uncertainties present in politics are driven home especially when relating to the case of the winner takes it all. DPJ is a party that proves how right this phenomenon is and how things may change to be a complete opposite of what was being encountered in one period to the rest. From this experience, it is also possible that another shift in political climate may be evidenced in the next general election. Therefore it is good if everybody is aware of this and when it occurs, we should not be astonished but take it as the new change that is being faced by the whole world. A shift and turn of tables should be regarded as something inevitable in the political arena. DPJ’s victory led to putting to rest a number of views and assumptions that had been forwarded by a number of individuals. These were views of hope and fear especially with the Japanese politics being considered synonymous with the rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).