Will Year of the Boar bode ill for voter turnout, LDP support?

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe traditional zodiac character for this year is the boar, and in past such years voter turnout tends to fall and the Liberal Democratic Party struggles.

These “Year of the Boar elections” come every 12 years when unified local elections held every four years and House of Councillors elections held every three years occur in the same year.

Political circles are drawing their attention to this jinx to see if it will apply to this year’s upper house election on Sunday.

Before this election and since the end of World War II, the Year of the Boar has arrived six times and voter turnout in the upper house elections in 1959, 1971, 1983 and 1995 were far lower than the previous poll. A record low turnout of 44.52 percent to vote for constituency seats was marked in 1995, which became the only case in which the figure fell below 50 percent in national elections.

One factor that has likely led to the decline in voter turnout is that local assembly members’ activities for the upper house election peter out during these years. In an upper house election with broad constituencies, local assembly members are often the main force of the campaign. In the Year of the Boar, those members have to keep campaigning for the upper house election in the summer right after campaigning for their unified elections in the spring, so fatigue is believed to leave them with little energy to reach supporters.

“From the perspective of local assembly members, they have just finished their elections and seem to have no power left to support other candidates,” an LDP official said.

A lower voter turnout is often regarded as favoring the ruling LDP and its coalition partner Komeito as they are good at organizing campaigns.

Since the LDP regained power after the 2012 House of Representatives election, the voter turnout has not reached 60 percent in five national elections, excluding by-elections, and the LDP has won every time.

“The LDP and Komeito, which have strong organizations, have little fluctuation in the number of votes cast, while opposition parties, which are weakly organized, gain more votes when turnout rises,” said Yoshiaki Kobayashi, a professor of political science at Keio University.

However, some observers also see that the LDP struggles in any upper house election held in the Year of Boar, regardless of turnout.

The LDP was established in 1955 and under the so-called 1955 political system in which the ruling LDP was in rivalry with the then leading opposition Japan Socialist Party (JSP), the LDP won an overwhelming victory over the JSP in 1959 and 1983, meaning the LDP was not facing uphill battles in elections held in those Years of the Boar.

After the collapse of the 1955 political system in the 1990s, however, the 1995 election did not favor the coalition government led by the LDP, the JSP and now-defunct New Party Sakigake (Pioneers), and the coalition also suffered a crushing defeat in 2007. In 1995, the LDP was criticized for its coalition government with the SDP, while in 2007, the first administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was tainted by a series of scandals involving Cabinet members and the missing of pension records.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted between Friday and Sunday at the midway point of upper house election campaigning, support for the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito remained firm. A senior LDP official predicted his party would “break the jinx of the Year of the Boar election.”Speech

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