Random thoughts: Gridlock or democracy?

I noticed something interesting about a couple of stories, aimed at Western readers, on Japan’s recent election.

They both describe one-party rule as a good thing. It makes me wonder if the balance between democracy and authoritarianism in Japan is still very fragile.

The event that kicked off the news stories was the July 21st Japanese House of Councillors election of 2013. (I know absolutely nothing about it, or Japanese politics, so here is Dr. Wikipedia’s report on it, as well as their description of government in Japan.)


According to London’s Telegraph, “Japan’s ruling party swept to victory in critical upper house elections on Sunday, bringing to an end a six-year political deadlock.”

I haven’t been following Japan’s politics at all, and so will have to take the writer at her word when she says:

In a twist of political irony, it was during Mr Abe’s first brief stint as prime minister in 2007 that the LDP first lost control of the upper house, resulting in a political gridlock in terms of passing legislation and his resignation two months later.

Since then, Japan has witnessed the rise and fall of a new prime minister every year, with the politically unstable environment exacerbated by the upper house parliamentary deadlock and growing party factionalism.

“One-party rule back but Abe could blow it”

The English-language Japan Times rather stiffly referred to the election results as “put[ting] an end to the divided Diet and hopefully to the ‘revolving door’ of prime ministers over the past seven years, as ridiculed by foreign media.”

This writer notes that constitutional revision may be on the agenda:

But even though the ruling bloc secured a majority in the Upper House, the first time since the LDP’s defeat in the 2007 election during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first stint at the nation’s helm, he is not expected to rush into revising the pacifist Constitution, experts said, noting his priority will instead be boosting the fragile economy.


It’s confusing to an American, as well it should be since we’re talking about a different part of the world and a different form of democracy (constitutional monarchy).

I wonder why the procession of prime ministers was not seen as a sign that the constitution is working; why compromise was not possible in the previously divided Diet; and whether anyone is worried that “politics that can make decisions and an administration with a stable grounding” (Masahiko Komura, quoted in the Telegraph article) is a little too close to the “make the trains run on time” end of the political spectrum.

However, today’s Japan Times reports that one day after the election Tepco has changed its story and now admits that radioactive groundwater is flowing from the Fukushima One site into the sea.

The admission is a good thing.

Revising the pacifist constitution, though?

The complexity certainly escalated quickly.

I’m glad the Internet is around to introduce me to the world’s complexity in ways that may be confusing but are also educational. The radioactive sea water (and seafood) can affect us all, so I have to bear down and try to get some sort of a grip of what’s happening in Japanese politics.

Maybe the biggest question is this: Had there been an Internet in the 1930s and 1940s, with people able to look in on Italy’s politics and Germany’s politics, would things have gotten so out of hand, with subsequent world war?

Fortunately, some questions, like that one, are just rhetorical.

Best wishes, Japan!

Categories: Random thoughts

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