Kokkai Insider

Double Election

Previously, we gave a history of double elections in Japan, which have only happened twice before in Japanese history – once in 1980 after PM Ohira’s untimely death, and again in 1986 at the end of PM Nakasone’s term in office.

In Nakasone’s case, he called an extraordinary Diet session on May 27, 1986, just 5 days after the end of the regular Diet session. Then, almost exactly today, on June 2, 1986, a short note calling to dissolve the House was passed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a snap election was called.

The difference between those 2 instances and the tentative upcoming double election is that PM Abe is not currently in poor health nor is he anywhere near the end of his term in office. So what’s their angle?

Over the past months, pundits have speculated that Abe could seek to instigate a double election in an effort to further his epic quest to revise Japan’s Constitution. However, there are other, more near-term issues that make the double election idea less than attractive:

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Upcoming Okinawa Local Election

This coming Sunday, June 5th, the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly will hold an election. Given the seemingly unending stream of unpleasant realities, lost hopes, and murders, the LDP is expected to take a clobbering. This could be the first chip in the wall, as a humiliating defeat in Okinawa could cast doubt on the LDP’s fitness to perform in the July 10th National Diet Upper House election.

July 10 Upper House Election

While there does not currently seem to be reason to believe that a double election will happen, the positive GDP growth figures and recent uptick in the Abe Administration’s approval rating have solidified the general opinion that election results will maintain the current status quo of simple majority (>50%). However, the LDP’s horizon is not without a few dark clouds.

Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe campaigning at the 2009 General Elections.

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Tokyo Governor Masuzoe Scandal

Yoichi Masuzoe, not to be confused with Monopoly’s Uncle Pennybags (who spent his own wealth instead of taxpayers’), is still stoically taking right hooks directly to where his pride would be in the ongoing scandal surrounding his wanton misappropriation of public funds. The more egregious of these actions include using the official Governor’s car to make weekly chauffeured trips to his country home in Kanagawa, traveling overseas first class and staying in outlandish hotels, not to mention getting himself a nice pair of pajamas.

Will he get to keep his job like former TPP top-dog Akira Amari, who got off the hook because he took the bribe but didn’t actually follow through on the payback part? Or, will he will be the next high profile implosion after Kensuke Miyazaki, the Mr. Mom turned paternity leave player who got caught fooling around with a bikini model instead of looking after his baby? The LDP might do well to consider their options for the coming months. To that end we can’t help but wonder if Abe’s long meeting last week with former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s son Nobuteru was a coincidence.

Zombie Ministers?

Pundits suggest that Shimajiri and Iwaki, who both happen to also be sitting ministers in the Abe cabinet, might not make the cut for reelection. This could prove to be embarrassing for the LDP, because while it is technically possible for a non-sitting politician to be a cabinet minister, it does not happen in practice.

Therefore the Abe Administration might take a hit to their perceived political power & strength, but it’s just one less hypothetical gold chain around the bedazzled neck of Mr. A. Be that as it may, considering the consolidation of the Opposition Party, it is expected that the LDP will be prevented from attaining the much sought after supermajority. PM Abe himself seems to be resigned to this, having stated rather conservatively that, “We expect to attain a ruling coalition (simple) majority.”

Kokkai

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Consumption Tax Rise: Let’s Try Again in 2019?

Despite the partially organized team effort of key LDP power brokers and the Ministry of Finance’s very own Teflon Don, Taro Aso, PM Abe railroaded through his populist decision to delay the consumption tax rise to 10% until October 2019. As a direct result, consumers no longer have to stockpile toilet paper and natto, and the Ministry of Finance’s prospects on moving toward a balanced budget are met with yet another swing and a miss. But hope springs eternal, and if the Pittsburgh Pirates can become a team to be reckoned with after their own Lost Decades, then maybe the MoF’s can get back in the groove too?

And boy was the bottom of the 9th inning of the battle royale over whether to raise Japan’s consumption tax a nail biter, an epic test of stoic determinism fought between the teams of Abe/Suga (pro-Delay) & Aso/Tanigaki (pro-Hike). The final run was cranked out in a 3-hour meeting over dinner at Nagatacho’s Capitol Tokyu Hotel between PM Abe and Minister Aso. A baker’s dozen of knuckle sandwiches later, PM Abe walked out with carte blanche to delay the consumption tax.

Lower House Election: If Not July 10 Then When?

With all of this information, we are willing to bet that a double election in July is off the table. That’s not to say it’s a complete dud: just like wet fireworks, there still may be a possibility for a late 2016 Lower House election (which, to our credit, we did hint at earlier!)

One new factor that could influence this is the chance of a deal between Japan and Russia over the ownership of the disputed Kuril Islands aka Japan’s “Northern Territories.” While a Grand Slam is almost entirely unimaginable in this existence, insiders believe that any resolution could be the PR boon that Abe uses to segue (Segway?) to a Lower House election.

Will Abe ride on this Segway into the sunset? Or, will he meet the same fate as the Segway’s inventor and ride it off a cliff? Stay tuned!