April 25, 2023
TOKYO – By-elections for both chambers of the Diet have been held, presenting a “midterm assessment” of the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The ruling and opposition parties must take to heart the meaning of the people’s judgment and use it to formulate future policy plans and party management.
The ruling and opposition camps battled each other in each of the five by-elections: Chiba Constituency No. 5, Wakayama Constituency No.1, Yamaguchi Constituencies No. 2 and No. 4 of the House of Representatives and the Oita Constituency of the House of Councillors.
The results of the vote count showed that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party won four by-elections and lost one. It can be said the Kishida administration received approval to a certain extent.
In the two lower house by-elections in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the LDP defended the seats it held, indicating the strength of its conservative base.
In Yamaguchi Constituency No. 2, the eldest son of former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi was elected for the first time, despite criticism that he was a hereditary politician. In Yamaguchi Constituency No. 4, previously held by slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a candidate who had made appeals to voters as Abe’s successor earned a seat for the first time in a convincing victory.
Chiba Constituency No. 5 and the Oita Constituency were won by the LDP after intense battles.
In Wakayama Constituency No. 1, however, the candidate of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) defeated a former LDP lawmaker and other candidates. Ishin also won the gubernatorial election in Nara Prefecture earlier this month, and maintained its momentum in the by-election.
The LDP won the majority of by-elections overall, but lost in Wakayama Prefecture, regarded as a base of support, and fought close races in Yamaguchi Constituency No. 2 and the other constituencies. This indicates that trust in the LDP is beginning to waver.
Kishida now has to focus his energies anew and work hard to implement his policies.
The focus of political affairs will now shift to the timing of the dissolution of the lower house for general elections.
The prime minister’s visit to Ukraine is among the factors that have pulled his Cabinet’s approval rating out of the doldrums. Within the LDP, there are growing views that the prime minister may decide to dissolve the lower house after the G7 summit in May.
If the opposition parties submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, momentum for the lower house dissolution would gain strength.
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan ended up with disastrous results. This may be partly because one of its upper house members ridiculed the regular holding of the lower house Commission on the Constitution, which may have had a negative impact on the party’s results.
It is important for the CDPJ to map out realistic policies and steadily strengthen its local organizations. It is also necessary for the party to focus on human resource development by, for example, utilizing its younger members in Diet debates.
In the latest by-elections, the opposition parties formed a united front in the Oita Constituency. While election cooperation between opposition parties is a possible tactic, it is unreasonable for other parties to work with the Japanese Communist Party because of its differing views and basic policies.
It is essential for each party to gain ground. In fact, Ishin has been building up its strength and expanding the seats it holds at various levels of politics.
The incident in Wakayama in which an explosive device was thrown toward Kishida just as he was about to give a speech was a shocking incident. Each party must consult with the police authorities and consider ways to carry out campaigns safely with a view toward the general elections.