Unseated Japan Opposition Leader Steps Down

Unseated Japan Opposition Leader Steps Down

The leader of Japan’s largest opposition party stepped down Monday after losing his seat in a weekend election drubbing.

Banri Kaieda, who led the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to its third consecutive thrashing at the polls, was among the casualties on a dreary night for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s main opponents.

Abe’s ruling coalition waltzed home with 326 seats — a two-thirds majority — while the DPJ managed 73, just 11 up on last time and a long way off the numbers that gave the party control of the house between 2009 and 2012.

While Abe billed the vote as a referendum on his economic management, where policy measures have sent the yen plunging and the stock market soaring, most commentators agree the unpopularity of his opponents was a big factor in his victory.

The DPJ, elected in 2009 on a wave of optimism after more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the LDP, governed haphazardly until 2012 under three weak prime ministers.

While Abe’s approval ratings remain solid at around 40 percent, there is disquiet over many of his policies, including his desire to restart nuclear reactors shuttered after the Fukushima disaster and his penchant for playing down Japanese war crimes.

The DPJ’s signal failure to capitalise on these and other issues — which barely figured in the campaign — will be the cause of some soul searching.