Japanese voters have turned their frustration into a strong vote for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which they had kicked out of office three years ago after more than five decades of political dominance.
Now, the old hands, mostly ageing, conservative leaders of the LDP, are back in force.
It is rather unusual for a former Japanese prime minister, in this case Shinzo Abe, to hold the position for a second time. This follows his stint of one year from 2006 to 2007. His return, despite his past dismal record, indicates a mood swing among the Japanese people. Voters who cared to show up on Sunday picked the LDP because they are not satisfied with the Democratic Party of Japan's performance.
Japan is facing fierce competition in an era of globalisation. The domestic economic recession, the question over future energy sources, and rising nationalism against the backdrop of territorial disputes in the East China Sea were all electoral issues. Thus, the Japanese election was closely watched not only by China but also by South Korea and Russia, with whom Japan also has a territorial dispute. Japanese voters have decided they want a stronger Japan to face these future challenges.
Over the past three years, the Japanese people have suffered from many setbacks, especially the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima. Most important, Japan and its people have suffered from a lack of confidence due to the economic slowdown. The Democratic Party of Japan has not transformed Japan as it envisaged and promised. Therefore, voters punished the ruling party by switching to the LDP, even though that party is turning hawkish, which could heighten tensions with China, its main rival and economic partner.
This time around, together with its coalition partner, Komeito, the LDP will have an absolute two-thirds majority of 320, which will allow the new government to pass necessary legislation to improve the present economic condition. Abe will be the seventh prime minister in just six and half years.
It remains to be seen how the new government under Abe will play out in the months to come, especially regarding Japan-China relations.
The LDP has vowed to implement an economic platform by further lowering interest rates to boost the economy and increase public spending.
The LDP also vows to apply a more hardline approach in response to security threats amidst the simmering territorial disputes.
Nonetheless, when the LDP takes the helm, it is likely to become pragmatic in its ties with China. After all, it was under the LDP that the two countries established diplomatic ties.
Like it or not, the destinies of China and Japan are tied togethert, despite past memories of colonisation and the Second World War.
The Japanese and Chinese leaders know that from now on they have to cooperate, otherwise they may face only one destiny: mutual destruction. Already, the dispute over the uninhabited Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has had economic repercussions on both sides. The rise of nationalism in the world's second and third largest economies is not healthy and will have far-reaching ramifications for the region and the world.
The future of the Asean Economic Community, set to begin in 2015, depends very much on good relations between Japan and China. Given the uncertainty surrounding these two Asian giants, it is essential that Asean leaders get their act together. They have to map out clear strategies of how Asean can survive if there is a protracted conflict between the two Asian giants.
Asean can no longer entertain the idea that regional peace and prosperity will continue forever. Asian people must know Asia and know when to stop hurting themselves.
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