Polls opened for the House of Councillors (upper house) election this morning. The run-up has been contentious in a rather boring way, with cabinet members suffering from the usual misappropriation scandals and foot-in-mouth syndrome but none of the sense of momentousness of the Koizumi-era show-downs. I miss that guy. Even the Nikkei reports come off somewhat listless:
Issues such as pensions and “politics and money” are the points of contention in the twenty-first upper house election, for which voting began on the morning of 29 July. Ballot counting will begin today.
The focus is on whether the ruling or opposition coalition will capture the majority in the upper house. The results of the election will have a major influence on the overall political future of the Abe cabinet. The direction of the results is expected to be clear by late tonight.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 16.93% of the electorate had voted by 11 a.m., exceeding by 0.21 percentage points the comparable figure for the last election in 2004.
Nevertheless, this could be a turning point. The DPJ-led opposition is not pushing a policy platform that differs all that much from that of the LDP this time around. It’s focusing instead on accusing the LDP of fat cat syndrome–corruption and lack of transparency.
The office of agriculture/forestry/fisheries minister Norihiko Akagi obligingly ensured there would be a fresh LDP scandal blanketing the media this election weekend:
Farm minister Norihiko Akagi flew back from Beijing on Friday and landed in yet another political fund scandal–this one involving photocopied receipts to doubly book spending by his two political organizations.
The new irregularities were uncovered by The Asahi Shimbun, which obtained copies of Akagi’s political fund reports from Ibaraki Prefecture under the information disclosure system.
Akagi has been under fire for huge and dubious office expenses reported by the support group based in his parents’ home.
His mother at one time said the group rarely met at the home, and that she covered the utility bills.
Added later: What they’re showing so far is 29 wins for the LDP and Shin-Komeito combined and 54 for the DPJ, Communist Party of Japan, and Social Democratic Party of Japan combined. Abe has said that he plans to think carefully about reshuffling his cabinet as a move to “take responsibility.” JNN, one of the networks I’ve been flipping through, has been flashing viewer e-mails across the top of the screen. The running themes, not surprisingly, are “this is what the LDP gets!” and “we’ll be watching you, DPJ!”