Japan votes today

It’s been an exciting weekend, what with the first round of the Egyptian referendum on its hastily-approved constitution (I’ll have some thoughts on that later — tech issues have kept the blog down earlier today) and Venezuelan regional elections, including key gubernatorial elections, not to mention the leadership race (likely to be won by South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma) at the conference of South Africa’s governing African National Congress. Japan

The big story in world politics today, however, is Japan, where today’s election could mean a drastic change in government for Japan and its nearly 128 million citizens.

Japanese voters are already, in fact, at the polls to select the members of the 480-seat House of Representatives, the lower house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, in an election that seems set to return former Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe (安倍 晋三) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP, or 自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshutō) back to power.

Abe, who served for exactly one year from 2006 to 2007, has promised an aggressive fiscal spending push as well as an expansive monetary policy, as well as a more aggressive approach to Japan’s military capability.  The LDP lost control of the Japanese government, for the first time since 1955, in the previous 2009 election, when Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, or 民主党, Minshutō) came to power.

The DPJ, which has gone through three governments of its own, has been beleaguered by Japan’s continued economic malaise, a nuclear energy crisis that stemmed from a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a less-than-popular push to raise Japan’s consumption tax from 5% to 10% (approved just earlier this year), disappointment over the DPJ’s inability to keep a campaign promise to move the U.S. naval base at Okinawa and a recent diplomatic crisis with China over the Senkaku islands.  The DPJ has also suffered from its inability to stem corruption  within Japan and disappointment over its inability to transform the sclerotic nature of Japanese politics.

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