Fumio Kishida
Fumio Kishida, Japanese Prime Minister

Defying expectations, Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, appears to have led his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to victory in the country’s General Election. Kishida was largely expected to lose his majority as a number of polls predicted that his ruling party would fail to hold on to the seats which gave them a majority.

Kishida has seen a number of polls showing displeasure with his party’s handling of the pandemic. Only elected on October 9th, Kashida offered an alternative to neoliberal policymaking, promising a more active government that intervened in the market, providing financial assistance packages to the more needy in Japan and subsidies for daycare. He has also vowed to reform the LDP from within.

Opposition coordination

Bouyed by what appeared to be a public turning on the ruling LDP/Komeito coalition, the opposition parties ran a coordinated campaign to give voters a stark choice. Four parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Reiwa Shinsengumi ran a single opposition candidate to offer voters a clear choice.

Kishida is in the mould of social democratic leaders in Europe who stick to ‘traditional’ policies of the right wing, pushing to increase military spending, but has also promised to address wealth inequality, touting a “new capitalism” that has stoked some concern among investors.

Proportional representation

Elected by a system of proportional representation, the Japanese system has not seen any significant shift to the left nor has it challenged the dominant economic system. The so-called ‘new capitalism’ is not a replacement for capitalism but consists of a few minor reforms. The lesson for those of us looking on from elsewhere should probably be that there is simply no way to socialism via the ballot box. Proportional representation, rather than bringing forward a left agenda, or even giving a left party seats, simply means a move to the centre as parties vie for the interest of a disinterested electorate.

It is also interesting to note the lack of interest in the UK in this particular election. Admittedly, it is not the American Presidential election, which we get a blow by blow account of, but even those supporting proportional representation have not used it to show how PR delivers for the left. Presumably because it doesn’t. The big winner was the conservative Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party.

Innovation Party

Reuters reports: “The Innovation Party is “really sweeping the Osaka region. They’ve emerged as an important conservative bloc,” said Yoichiro Sato, a professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. “They are going to block Kishida’s new capitalism idea of narrowing the rich-poor income gap.”

A salutary lesson perhaps for those who seem to hang on to the belief that adopting PR in UK General Elections will somehow allow a left challenge to emerge. From all the evidence around the World where such systems are used, it is the right who tend to be the main beneficiaries. And, whatever system is used to elect governments, those governments are invariably more concerned to manage capitalism than dismantle it.

2 thought on “Shock! Capitalism wins Japan General Election”
  1. So, are you saying that only Revolution leads to socialism Dave? Because I don’t get the feeling that’s very likely either! What are our options for change, or do we just stick with the status quo?

    1. Basically Lynne that is exactly what I am saying. But, more than this, that by expecting a system set up to support capitalism to deliver socialism requires a degree of optimism that I find it hard to muster. Revolution may not seem likely but its unlikely that anybody living through the last days of feudalism thought it was over either. What would create revolution is when the class that rules cannot any longer both buy off the class it rules and at the same time maintain its own privileged position. Are we close to that? One of the problems we have, in the UK at least but probably other countries too, is a working class low on confidence and a ruling class high on its own power. But, when we look at the mess we are in globally with more and more people displaced, the earths temperature rising with unimaginable consequences and a pandemic which those who rule have simply failed to take seriously enough, the mood of despondency could change to one of desperation very quickly. What the outcome of that is I have no idea, but the only viable option for saving humanity as a species is socialism or something very like it.

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