Rise of a New Era in Japan





TOKYO -- Japanese voters overwhelmingly rejected the party that has largely ruled their nation for most of the past half a century, choosing instead an untested rival to grapple with an enfeebled economy and an aging society.

The historic change in government could usher in a new era for Japanese politics that replaces the staid consensus that guided Japan in its postwar boom years with a more fractious, competitive environment. The upstart Democratic Party of Japan and the establishment Liberal Democratic Party share similar positions on a number of issues. But the more-liberal DPJ is pushing an ambitious and expensive domestic spending agenda with an eye toward reigniting Japan's economy...

... The Japanese voted in record numbers on a hot and rainy Sunday. Kyodo News projected the final turnout at 70% of the 104 million eligible voters, topping the 68% in the previous election. In Tokyo trading Monday, shares were up more than 1% on the news early, before entering the midday break slightly lower.

The outcome had been forecast by pollsters, but Sunday will nonetheless go down as a watershed in modern Japanese history. It was the first time since the LDP's creation in 1955 that Japanese voters gave a majority to another party.

The LDP has run the nation since 1955 for all but 11 months, in the early 1990s, when it was tossed from power by a motley crew of defectors and opposition figures. But for that interregnum, the nation has had one of the most stagnant democracies in the world for half a century. The LDP led Japan into prolonged decline following the collapse in 1990 of its property and stock markets, but the opposition failed to field leaders strong enough to capture the public's confidence. As the LDP lost favor, its effectiveness ebbed, from domestic policy to foreign affairs. This stasis is widely cited as a key factor behind Japan's inability to shake its long economic slumber. "You've had a political situation that has frozen Japan's ability to act," said Thomas Schieffer, who served from 2005 until earlier this year as U.S. ambassador to Japan...


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