For the first time since 1955 (and really, for the first time ever, since the pre-'55 House of Councillors was dominated by the royalist right), the Democratic Party, a left-leaning party, won control of Japan's House of Councillors, displacing the Liberal Democratic Party… that had ruled the chamber uninterrupted in the postwar period since the 1955 elections….. Reasons for the LDP's loss include widespread opposition to Japan's participation (however limited) in the occupation in Iraq, and upset with Prime Minister Abe's policy proposals to amend Japan's pacifist Constitution and to teach "patriotic" subjects in the public school system, both of which are key issues for the Japanese extreme right…. I suspect that one of the biggest reasons for the Democratic Party's victory had to do with the shift of Japanese rural voters from the LDP, as a result of ex-PM Koizumi's strong but ultimately ineffectual push to privatize the postal system in the service of neoliberal "reform." Rural voters were stalwart LDP voters for years, but when Koizumi tried to sacrifice the postal system and projects that benefitted rural voters, they crossed over and threw the upper house to the left in a rejection of neoliberal economics….
Wu Ming's analysis then turns to a wider (very best case) contextualization of this election result, which connects many of the same dots that preoccupy my own attention these days:
While it's far from a Chavez, Lula or Morales-style radical pushback against the neoliberal drive to privatize government and socialize costs, if this sticks it could still be a tidal shift in Japanese politics. The next House of Representatives election should make things clearer…. Bush's allies in war and pirate economics Aznar, Berlusconi, Blair and Koizumi are all off the political stage now, which leaves Howard in Australia, Harper in Canada, Merkel in Germany, Sarkozy in France and Olmert in Israel. With any luck, America will follow in the Japanese voters' footsteps and toss the corporate-friendly hawks out on their ear come 2008, and we'll get some traction to start rolling back the neoliberal "free trade" piracy that passes for economic policy these days.
Reasons to be hopeful, reasons to redouble our efforts.