TOKYO – In the December snap election initiated by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner, the Komeito Party, won 326 of the Diet’s 475 seats, retaining their constitutional majority in the lower house of parliament. It was an extraordinary achievement – one that Japan has not witnessed in decades.
Japan’s opposition parties offered no convincing alternative to the Abe government’s policies. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which led the government less than three years ago, was unable even to field enough candidates to contest every seat. Its road back to political relevance appears long and bleak.
Of course, under the single-seat constituency system, minor parties in Japan are at a distinct disadvantage. Indeed, a landslide victory on the scale of Abe’s may very well lead to some of them completely disappearing from political life.
The only opposition party that made significant gains in the recent vote was the Japanese Communist Party, which nearly tripled its seat total, from eight to 21. The JCP has recently sought to position itself as a “reliable opposition” to the LDP – though it has never proved particularly “reliable,” at least not in promoting realistic policies.