Millions of Japanese citizens headed to the polls today to cast their vote in the Diet elections. The Diet was dissolved by Democratic Party of Japan Prime Minister Noda in November, setting up today’s contest. The election is one that will have wide and important impacts on not just Japan, but the Asian region, and by extension, the world. The frightening part of this election is that the vitrolic rhetoric of the right in Japan seems to have caught on in popularity, as Japan faces disputes with China over the Senkaku islands, people are increasingly wary of China’s growing influence, and Japan struggles with economic and demographic problems of monumental proportion. Instead of cool heads and sound policy going forward, many of the parties contending today are only looking to feed the fear, feed the anxiety and to rouse nationalist fervor. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is expected to win, returning once failed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the post of Prime Minister. He promises a hard line with China, and a return to the cronyism of LDP lore of old. The voters seemed undecided in polls leading up to the election however, and the results are not yet finalized. As of this writing, the polls will be open for another couple of hours here in Japan, and many will probably be watching the elections on TV and the internet. With some wanting to overturn the Japanese constitution article 9 that forbids war, to restore the emperor to more than a figurehead, and take a more antagonistic stance towards its neighbors, this election is of utmost importance. In spite of the anti-nuclear fervor in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami last year, it doesn’t seem to be an issue central to this election cycle. In all cases it appears that the old forces of racism, xenophobia, militarism and nationalism are set to make a comeback in Japan. My only hope is that Japan reverses course on this dangerous road before they suffer serious consequences again
This is a serious post, obviously. I did promise my take on Asian politics, Japan in particular.
The Japanese media has followed closely the rise of the young and charismatic politician from Osaka, Toru Hashimoto. They have documented his political rise, and his political maturation as he recently took his regional Osaka political party to the national level, and is expecting to do well in the upcoming elections that are expected to take place some time in November. Many articles have been written about his draconian and heavy handed sty; including such problems as attacking city workers for having tattoos. (The horror.) In a way he’s an old school Japanese fascist, with his banal talk of loving country and hating foreigners. On the other hand he seems to be a a new breed. He does not want to restore the Japan of old, with worship of the emperor and kamikaze pilots, but instead wants to ally more closely with the US against a rising China. In addition to this he wants to whittle away at the 9th article of the Japanese constitution, the one that forbids Japan from ever again using war as a right to solve conflict with other nations. He wants Japan to participate in so called “collective” defense, that is ganging up on other countries, probably by the side of the United States. He wishes to further make Japan the lap dog of the US, but only enough for Japan to regain it’s militarism. This man is not stupid, he is quite shrewd I think. I certainly hope that the Japanese people are much more shrewd and reject this mindless militaristic nationalism that threatens the future of peace in the Asia pacific area. With nationalistic rhetoric heating up over territorial disputes, the last thing Japan needs is to pick more fights with its neighbors, or even make them nervous. It just goes to show you that the right wing is destructive and harmful in whatever country you’re in. For the future of peace in Japan and East Asia, reject this nationalistic tripe, and reach for building trust and cooperation in Asia. Otherwise, it will be the Japanese people, not assholes like Hashimoto who will pay the ultimate price for this foolishness. UPHOLD ARTICLE 9!!!!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please join in the debate!!