There’s some talk out there among people wondering whether Mr. Abe “won” or “lost” the December 14 lower house election. In the most tangible sense, he won, of course, because the coalition extended its supermajority by roughly two years, covering the next upper house election in 2016 and his hoped-for second three-year term as LDP president (which means prime minister), so that he can pass the baton to his LDP successor, who can call a snap election immediately after his appointment as prime minister close enough to the end of the lower house members’ term so that it will cause minimum distress among vulnerable first-term members. If that’s not a “win,” I don’t know what is.
Here’s an argument out there that says the LDP lost because it went into the election with 295 seats and came out with only 291. That’s a defendable argument, but there is a counterargument. The LDP won 294 out of the 480 available seats in the 2012 election and won 291 out of 475 in this election. That’s a drop from 61.25% to 61.13% of the seats available, representing the equivalent of a half-seat decline, essentially a coin toss. There’s more. Of the five prefectures that lost a third seat, the LDP made a clean sweep in both elections in Fukui, Tokushima, and Kochi, while losing the one seat that it had in Yamanashi (although the stealth LDP candidate won in both elections), and lost two out of the three that it had in Saga. Redistricting obviously hurt the LDP. Adjusted for the five-seat cut, the LDP most likely “won.” Of course that’s no reason for the LDP to rejoice. The LDP is losing out as the conservative boondock lose the demographics game. The many adjustments to accommodate the increasingly irate Supreme Court, if nothing else, may redistrict the LDP out existence, if Japan has not childlessnessed itself to extinction first. But that’s too distant in the future to concern Mr. Abe.
There’s a less meaningful argument that says that Mr. Abe “lost” because he did not meet the widespread expectation among chatterists that the LDP would actually register a gain. But we were only parroting what the media was saying. (yes, I, as a charter member of the chatterist, dutifully reported that the media reports were saying that the LDP would “take 300 or more seats”). Yes, so the media reports were wrong. So? The point is?
Of course I also made the point then that “any ‘mandate’ talk from the Abe administration and its opinionating followers will ring hollow. Komeito will make sure of that with regard to any attempts to push the markers further on collective self-defense. And nothing will have changed on the socio-economic agenda beyond the LDP promise to make good on consumption tax exceptions. And that decision technically has preceded the election.”
“Win”? “Lose”? What do those words even mean?