When Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party stormed back to power in last month’s parliamentary elections, news stories in the West described the landslide as a resounding victory for conservatives in a vote driven by economic anxiety. Voters in 2009 had replaced the long-ruling Liberal Democrats — the more conservative party, its name notwithstanding — with a left-leaning coalition that had failed to pull the country out of a prolonged decline. Now the electorate had shifted decidedly rightward, and a conservative former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was back in the saddle.
Was Japan having a Tea Party moment?
The sumo-sized win for Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party might have reminded an American observer of the conservative surge in the United States two years earlier, when the largest Republican majority in 60 years swept to control of the House of Representatives. It was a triumph for Tea Party conservatives committed to smaller government, lower taxes, individual liberty, and free enterprise. Could something similar be galvanizing voters in Japan?