Why ‘unpopular’ Japanese PM Abe is expected to win Sunday’s polls

Japanese voters head to the polls on Sunday in a general election that is widely expected to hand incumbent leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, yet another mandate, despite his unpopularity. FRANCE 24 asked an expert to explain the upcoming vote.

In the run-up to Japan’s general election, media polls indicate that Abe’s ruling coalition, which is led by his Liberal-Democratic Party, is in for a handsome win, despite the leader having dipped significantly in recent popularity polls.

FRANCE 24’s Julie Dungelhoeff and Yuka Royer spoke to Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at the Temple University in Tokyo, about the ins-and-outs of the election.

What’s at stake in this election?

Elections are always about political pandering, so certainly, all they want is to draw attention to the national security crisis and [will] essentially say: Flaws and all – aren’t I more trustworthy and reliable than any of these other untested people? In who do you trust with Japan security? The [Abe’s] LDP certainly has a lock on that issue.

How is Abe viewed?

Abe has acted in a very high-handed, arrogant way in the way he pushed through the conspiracy legislation, so he created a real backlash and went down to 26 percent. He’s really recovered, primarily because of the North Korean missile launches.

He is not particularly popular. If you look at those who support Abe, about half of them say it’s because there is no alternative. So this is not like an enthusiastic endorsement in terms of his policies or in terms of his leadership qualities.

So he’s not a popular leader but he benefits from the fact that there are no serious rivals out there.

How does he compare with one of his main rivals, Tokyo Mayor Yuriko Koike?

She used to be a TV broadcaster so she’s very media savvy and in front of the media she presents a confident image. And she’s very smart. She speaks Arabic, she speaks English, she knows a lot about policy. She has served as defence minister and environment minister, so she has quite a good CV to rely on. She seems reasonable. You would be hard-pressed to guess that she’s a super-ultra nationalist who has often visited the Yasukuni shrine, and who’s a member of Nippon Kaigi, one of the very conservative influential lobby groups in Japan. So she exudes a sort of “bon ami”.

Date created : 2017-10-21

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