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MBC | Jul 29
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition government won big in last weekend's parliamentary elections, gaining majorities in both houses. Sou...
Now disenchantment with traditional politics is growing all around the world, whether we’re talking about the Tea Party movement, or the Occupy Wall Street movement here in the US, or the protests and demonstrations against austerity measures in European countries like Greece. And Asia is no exception. LinkAsia is starting a new series to explore voter alienation in Asia’s democracies, beginning with Japan.
Japan has had six prime ministers in the last five years. And none of them has left any enduring legacies. And as our contributor in Tokyo, Rebecca Milner, found out, the current leader looks to be following in their footsteps.
When Yoshihiko Noda took over the post of prime minister from the deeply unpopular Naoto Kan last September, he was supposed to clear the air of the uncertainty and mistrust that had surrounded the government since the March 11th disaster. He was supposed to give the government a fresh start. And he did, at first.
Less than six months later, however, Noda too finds himself deeply unpopular. Recent public opinion polls show that two-thirds oppose him. The number one reason is that he’s not expected to be able to accomplish anything.
But that might not even be the worst of public sentiment. Last month an opinion poll was conducted by upstart video-sharing site Nico Nico Douga, which has 23 million registered users. More than 100,000 of them responded to the survey. And in typical Nico Nico Douga fashion, the results were displayed in a video with viewers' comments scrolling across the screen.
Sixty-four percent of those who responded said they opposed Noda, a number which isn't so different from those produced by the mainstream public opinion polls.
But it's not just Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan. Asked if there was a political party that they could support, 70 percent said no. And teens were the least trusting of all respondents.
This was an opt-in survey among Nico Nico Douga users, so the results are naturally skewed. The vast majority of the users of the site are under 30, and many of them aren't even old enough to vote.
But this poll became a hot topic for what it had to say about the health of Japanese politics. Looking at the numbers, there's a clear sense of confusion and mistrust that the younger generation feels towards their politicians.
Over on Ni-channeru, a popular bulletin board site, there was plenty of talk. Summed up here on a blog that recounts Ni-channeru discussions, one anonymous reader notes:
"This is really different from the surveys put out by the mass media."
Says another, also anonymous:
"Looking at the input from teens in this survey makes me feel gloomy indeed."
Says yet another, pointedly:
"But these are just the kind of spoiled, aimless types who won't go out and vote. It's about time they woke up."
But who are they to vote for? As of yet, no politician and no party has risen yet to inspire trust and hope in a generation that's seen nothing of Japan's legendary rise. Its experience is only of economic stagnation and political infighting, neither of which looks likely to change.
In Tokyo, for LinkAsia, this is Rebecca Milner.