JIN-280 -- This Sunday's Elections -- Steel Yourself!

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Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 280
Thursday, July 8, 2004

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@@ VIEWPOINT: This Sunday's Elections -- Steel Yourself!

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@@ VIEWPOINT: This Sunday's Elections -- Steel Yourself!

The phrase "Japanese Upper House elections" has traditionally aroused
the same frisson of excitement as five hours of Noh drama --
excessively long, unconvincing stories with very few surprises at the

But we are just starting to wonder whether the elections being held
this Sunday might be worthy of some attention.

We spent most of last week watching the stumping tours by the major
candidates, and were given very little cause to believe much was
different from usual. Koizumi appeared beside an extremely disappointing
Takenaka on the back of a bus (it's still heartwarming to live in a
country where that sort of thing happens without bullet-proof glass),
ranting about crime and so forth. Elsewhere, Democratic Party and
Komeito hopefuls focused on the pensions reform issue and a smattering
of Iraq. The debates were noisy but mechanical -- we left each of
these rallies with the strong sense that the LDP would scrape the
51 seats it needs and the protest vote would be low-key.

Perhaps we misread all that. Polls in all the major papers have given
us sudden cause to wonder whether, in fact, Koizumi might be in
line for a rude pummeling by the voters.

This pensions business, though convoluted and confusing, affects
everyone in Japan, and the government has been shown to be
dishonest where the release of certain important economic figures
are concerned. Iraq may not raise hackles and split the electorate
like it does in the US and UK, but clearly Japanese have started
to wonder quite how smart Koizumi is looking these days -- with
the UN still not ready to give its blessing to the coalition
project in the Middle East.

So steel yourself for Sunday: Our predictions are that the LDP
will win only 45 seats. Minshuto will make solid gains, and
Komeito will reach its usual uncomfortable accord with the
ruling party. Monday will ring to the calls for Koizumi's
resignation -- which he will studiously ignore -- and all
will be back to normal by next Friday.

-- The Editors

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Written and edited by Roland Kelts and
Leo Lewis (editors@japaninc.com)


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