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Japan's PM concedes defeat to right-wing opposition

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-16

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda conceded defeat Sunday in general elections as exit polls showed the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, led by ex-premier Shinzo Abe (pictured), had won a clear majority. Official results are expected Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda conceded defeat in the country’s general election after exit polls on Sunday showed that the conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had won a decisive majority.

Noda also announced that he would be stepping down as the leader of his party in the wake of its humbling election defeat.

"I will resign as the head of the Democratic Party of Japan because I take this result seriously," he told a press conference. "I want to deeply apologise as I could not produce results."

Abe reaffirms stance on disputed islands

Japan’s former premier Shinzo Abe, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party won a decisive majority in the country's general election, reaffirmed his stance on a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea on Sunday, sending a clear message to China that he will not back down on the issue.

"The Senkaku Islands are inherently Japanese territory," Abe said, following his election victory. "I want to show my strong determination to prevent this from changing."

Abe’s comments came as China’s official news agency Xinhua warned Japan’s new leadership not to “pick fights”, saying that it should instead “take a more rational stand on foreign policy”.

Noda spoke after public broadcaster NHK projected that the LDP, a conservative party that ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era until it lost out in 2009 elections, had won between 275 and 300 seats in the 480-seat lower house. Before the election it held 118 seats. Official results were not expected until Monday morning.

FRANCE 24's Japan correspondent Gavin Blair said the electorate had not shifted to the right but that voters were frustrated with the ruling party. “This is more a case of disappointment and disillusionment with the left-of-centre Democratic Party [and] its failure to deliver on its promises of reform and more financial support for families,” he said.

LDP leader Shinzo Abe’s campaign has been boosted by support from a junior coalition partner, the far-right Japan Restoration Party led by Shintaro Ishihara, an octogenarian former Tokyo governor who helped set the aggressive tone of the election campaign.

Abe made a campaign pledge to bolster Japan’s military and coastal defences, particularly on a disputed island chain that is also claimed by China and Taiwan, and rewrite the country’s pacifist postwar constitution.

Abe had pledged in campaign speeches to "repair the Japan-US alliance and firmly defend our territorial soil and waters".

Tokyo scrambled fighter jets on Thursday after a Chinese plane entered airspace over the disputed islands, called the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by China.
“It is absolutely normal that the Japanese people are protecting territory which belongs to them," said hawkish JRP leader Ishihara after Thursday’s incident. "I don't want Japan to become the next Tibet. But that is what will happen if we give in to China over the islands.”

Faltering economy

Beyond the territorial dispute, Japan is stuck in the economic doldrums and is labouring under huge public debt.

In the run-up to Sunday’s vote, Noda had argued that his party had started the ball rolling for a recovery and urged voters to give him a fresh mandate to finish the job. "The election is about whether we can move forward or turn back the clock," he said.

Profile: Shinzo Abe

“It was the DPJ who put in the effort to recover from Japan's 20-year slump," Noda said. "Are we giving this up now, and are we going back ... ? We must not do that.''

Abe, speaking this week in Saitama prefecture north of the capital, pledged to restore Japan's economy through increased public spending. "With stronger monetary policies, fiscal policies and growth policies, we will end deflation, correct a high yen and grow the economy," he said.

Abe highlighted Noda's failures and said a fresh approach was needed. "The Noda government makes all sorts of complaints [about our policies], but have they stopped deflation? Have they corrected a high yen?"

(FRANCE24 with wires)


Date created : 2012-12-15


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