Yomiuri says that 13.44% of eligible voters had voted by 11AM, up 3.19 percentage points from the 2005 elections, but down from the 3.98 percentage point margin at 9AM. So let’s say that this election winds up 3 percentage points ahead of the 2005 election: such a turnout, at 46.99%, would place the election at—14th out of 16 post-WW II Tokyo Prefectural Assembly elections. This should help political parties with rock-solid constituencies, such as Komeito and the Communist Party. It would also be an indication of public dissatisfaction over the choice between the LDP and DPJ as the core of the next national administration.
Historically, turnout has followed a downward trend everywhere and Tokyo is no exception. The assembly election turnout dropped from a 1959 high of 70.13%*, up from 1955’s 59.63%—very low for those early years—to a 1998 low of 40.80%.
But the peaks and troughs tell a story of their own. The 1959 peak coincided with the national battle over the renewal of the Japan-U.S. security relationship that was to reach its peak with the signing of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan on 19 January 1960, while the low point reached in the previous 1955 election had been preceded by a Lower House general election only a couple of months earlier. The second lowest at a 43.99% turnout, the 2005 assembly election preceded Prime Minister Koizumi’s Post Office election by a couple of months, but nobody had an inkling at the time that one month later Koizumi would dissolve the Lower House and call an election.
Although I won’t rule out the possibility that a more thorough examination may show otherwise, these examples suggest that the interest of Tokyo voters in the assembly election waxes and wanes with their interest in the national political scene. From this point of view, the disinterest demonstrated by a turnout in the mid 40 percentile range, will speak volumes about the disappointment on the part of the public on the political parties across the board.