Yen for change
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Abe's political resurrection provides a valuable opportunity to take India-Japan ties to the next level
As predicted, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) staged a stunning political comeback in Sunday's general elections, winning 294 seats out of 480 in the lower house of the Diet. The LDP, which ruled Japan for most of the post-war period, was ousted from power in 2009. The inability of the governments led by the Democratic Party of Japan to provide credible governance over the last three years paved the way for the return of the LDP. Less predictable, however, are the political consequences of the latest turn in Japan, which comes amidst growing tensions between Tokyo and Beijing. That China's recent assertiveness on the territorial dispute with Japan has helped the LDP, which has campaigned on a nationalist platform, is not in doubt. The surge of nationalism in both China and Japan, which are the world's second and third largest economies, respectively, and each other's biggest trading partner, bodes ill for regional integration in Asia and the stabilisation of the global economy.
Together with its smaller ally, the New Komeito Party, the LDP has won a "super majority" that could, in theory, give it the political room to undertake sweeping measures, including changes to its pacifist constitution. But the LDP has barely got 30 per cent of the vote from a record low turnout of about 59 per cent; it remains a minority in the Upper House. Shinzo Abe, the patrician leader of the LDP expected to be sworn in as the new prime minister, was careful not to over-read the implications of the mandate. He conceded the anti-incumbent nature of the vote and acknowledged the huge responsibility that awaits the LDP in meeting the extraordinary challenges that confront Japan — a prolonged economic downturn, political sclerosis, and regional isolation.