The full extent of the landslide alternation from the Liberal Democrats (LDP) to the Democrats (DPJ) is now clear.
The DPJ-led opposition camp secured 340 [really 331+] seats against just 140 for the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc. In the opposition camp, the DPJ alone had 308. (Japan Times)
The DPJ’s pre-electoral allies, the Social Democrats and the Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), will join the DPJ in a coalition government. The correct number, I am advised by a trustworthy source, for the parties in the new governing bloc is 331, not 340. The Japan Times apparently lumped the Communists, who won 9 list seats, in with the former opposition. They are not part of the bloc that won this election, however. Neither are all of the six independents who won single-seat district races, but I am unclear on just how many should be counted with the winning bloc. In any case, the new government will have more than two thirds of the seats.
Several major figures in the outgoing governing coalition lost their single-seat races and some will not be in parliament at all, having not been nominated on a PR list (or not high enough on a list).
The LDP also lost some big names in single-seat races, including former Foreign Ministers Nobutaka Machimura and Taro Nakayama, as well as Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano and former Finance chief Shoichi Nakagawa.
However, Machimura and Yosano regained their seats in proportional representation.
New Komeito suffered even worse, with party chief Akihiro Ota and heavyweights Kazuo Kitagawa and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba all defeated in their single-seat districts. They didn’t “insure” themselves by putting their names on the party’s list of proportional-representation candidates.
More than any election since the mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system was adopted sixteen years ago, this one featured the straight fight that we always expected between two opposing blocs of parties. And the result speaks loudly and decisively.
Despite the DPJ alone having a large majority, it still needs its coalition partners. The DPJ lacks a majority on its own in the second chamber of the Diet (parliament), and in any case, its first chamber majority would not have been as large had it not had stand-down agreements with its partners in single-seat districts.* It also needs to keep the partners on its side looking ahead to future elections. In this sense, by forming a coalition despite a large single-party majority, the DPJ is following the path set by the LDP, which formed a coalition with its pre-electoral allies even after its massive landslide in 2005. It is very much the pattern of governance to be expected from parliamentary systems with MMM.
The new House of Representatives will convene 14 September to approve the new coalition government, which was already taking shape before the election. Then comes the hard part.
* For instance, the SDP won 3 of its 7 seats in single-seat districts, and the Kokumin won all its 3 seats that way. In these cases, there was no DPJ candidate in the district. Likely there are some districts in which the DPJ margin over the LDP was made possible by the partners’ non-presence in the district with their own candidates.