Suga’s punishment puts Japan’s most powerful party in danger

By Carmen Grau Vila

Tokyo, Aug 27 (EFE).- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is experiencing his lowest hours, but it is the future of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party of Japan that could be at stake in the imminent general elections.

The controversial Olympics, the coronavirus, the economic recession and an electoral blow to the head of the governor of Yokohama city, where he amassed his political power, have put the absolute dominance of the almost eternal ruling party in Japan in doubt.

As infections increase in the worst wave the country has suffered from the delta variant, Suga’s popularity has fallen further, which after the Olympic Games hit rock bottom and lingered at 30 percent, something that worries the government with elections approaching.

“Elections in danger” headlined the main Japanese newspapers Monday in red, after the electoral defeat of Suga’s favorite for mayor of Yokohama.

The president placed someone of his trust in the candidacy of the second most populated city in the country, but the electorate preferred the opposition, a “political punishment” for the management of the pandemic according to experts.

“It is a tremendous political mistake, a failure and a surprise. It is very rare that a favorite of the prime minister loses an election, but he no longer has citizen support in Yokohama, his territory,” said Tomofumi Nakazawa, a political analyst at Ritsumeikan University of Kyoto.

All the social strata of the city, old and young, punished the ruler, a reflection of a citizenship at the limit of his patience.

Continuous and ineffective states of emergency have made small and medium-sized companies unhappy, the slow and uneven vaccination process raises criticism and a border closure since April 2020 has not prevented the expansion of the delta variant.

These days, the public suffers the health collapse and thousands of patients are treated in their homes, to the point that a pregnant woman was rejected from hospital and lost her baby at home.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democratic Party is dying, but it will do everything possible to continue in the government of a country from which it has barely separated.

The party does not want to lose control of its long-standing institution. Created in 1955, it is a force of factions fighting internally for power, always with the common goal of not letting go of the helm of the country.

The strategy has led them to govern the archipelago for six decades, except for the periods 1993-1994 and 2009-2012.

The arrival of the charismatic Shinzo Abe in 2012 dynamited this strategy since the former president managed to centralize the total power of the party, maneuvered to control the main media and had the support of the main Japanese companies.

“Like the Buddhist statue with a hundred faces, the [party] had many too, but now it only has one face and a failure could cost the party its life,” the Japanese professor said.

Abe left the helm of the party a year ago for health reasons and gave way to his right-hand man and although he has given signs of return and continues to meet with the political leadership, analysts do not bet on an imminent return.

“There could be a surprise. If the situation worsens and the game is at risk, he could come out again to save it,” Nakazawa said.

At the moment, Suga announced his intention to be re-elected this week, but it remains to be seen if he has the support of the rest of the formation. If the cases of infections continue to increase at this rate, his days could be numbered.

Fumio Kishida, a former defense minister, announced Thursday his candidacy to take the helm, with the approval of Abe and the secretary general of the party, Toshihiro Nikkai, a political oracle.

Taro Kono, current minister in charge of vaccination, might also come forward, but his image is associated with the slow national vaccination campaign.

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