Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rural, "conservative" Japan shifts political loyalties

Read Martin Fackler's story here, under the headline "Eroding Rural Base Threatens to Topple Japanese Party's Long Rule." The story reports that the Liberal Democrats are likely to suffer a "humiliating loss" in the August 30 national elections, only the second since the party was founded in 1955. These excerpts reflecting on a rural-urban divide in Japanese politics are of particular interest, in part because they hint at the diminution of that divide:

“The countryside is angry,” said Takayuki Miyauchi, a retired postmaster [who used to organize voters for the Liberal Democratic Party, but who now campaigns against it]. “We want anyone but the Liberal Democratic Party.”

For years, the dogged loyalty of Japan’s conservative heartland kept the Liberal Democrats in power despite urban unhappiness with its chronic corruption scandals and policy bungling. Now, the party seems paralyzed by Japan’s mounting problems, including the expense of supporting a rapidly aging population even as its economy continues to falter.
* * *
Even the construction industry, the major recipient of government largess and the most important cog in the rural patronage machine, has turned against the party as 40 percent of its companies have fallen into bankruptcy over the last decade.
The story's dateline is Matsuyama, a city in "rural Western Japan" that has been a party stronghold. Matsuyama is a city of 500,000 in Ehime prefecture on "the rural island of Shikoku."

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