There was no strong desire to see the LDP returned to power. Rather, the main sentiment appeared to be apathy. Voter turnout was the lowest since World War II. Evidently the electorate has become disillusioned with the reformers.
After the 1993 elections swept the LDP from power, a series of reformist coalitions attempted to govern, but they were inexperienced and ineffective. Eventually the LDP returned to office in an awkward coalition with the Socialists and a splinter party. Now the election results have solidified the LDP's position under the leadership of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who is expected to retain his post.
The elections came as Japan is struggling to emerge from a severe recession, which has had repercussions in Hawaii. Its banking system is in a crisis that is believed to be bigger than the savings and loan debacle in this country. Perhaps the uncertainty over the economy prompted the voters to choose the party they knew best.
Yet Japan badly needs to reform its political and economic systems to meet new challenges. Hashimoto has pledged to cut the number of government ministries by half in order to counter an opposition proposal, but it is doubtful that he will succeed. The creaky, faction-ridden LDP is an unlikely vehicle for reform. The election results seem to postpone the day when Japan will confront the need for change.
The defeat of the highly complicated health-care program proposed by President Clinton may have saved the country from such a disaster. The passage this year of a much more modest program, providing employees with the right to take their health insurance with them when they change jobs, was a cautious step in the right direction. More must be done to meet the health-care needs of Americans, but care must be taken to avoid commiting the country to an unworkable, unaffordable system.
Rupert E. Phillips, CEO
John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher
David Shapiro, Managing Editor
Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor
Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors
A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor