Keep your eye on the Japanese elections

by Chris Zappone

After the US election and the leadership transition in China, Japan has called an election. Look for surprises. With Japanese democracy long in a slump, the country on its sixth government in five years, and an economy slowly shrinking and stalling, Japan generally has fallen off the global news radar. With tensions swirling in the East China and South China Seas, expect Japanese politicians to have plenty to say on these topics.

In the current election cycle, the ominously named Japan Restoration Party, currently polling in second place, is calling for a scrapping the 1 per cent of gross domestic product defense spending cap in place for decades while increasing Japan’s maritime surveillance. The same day Reuters reported China plans to begin boarding and searching foreign ships in the southern island province of Hainan. Can you see a pattern here?

For the Japanese, this will be a decidedly right leaning election. The Japanese have the highest debt to GDP ratio in the world, their unemployment rate stays low not through a growing economy, but a continual and steady exit of retirees from the workforce. All together this add up to more appetite for the restoration of the country’s pride. Just look at the 2007 movie “Little Big Man” about an aged and diminished Japanese giant, looking back on the past glory of his father and grandfather in defending Japan from invading monsters.

But it’s not all bad news for Japan. Sixty-seven years of post-war peace for Japan have engendered a robust output of art, design, pop-culture, fashion, animation and cuisine that has extended the reach of Japan’s soft-power. It might win them friends from afar in a difficult time.