by Liu Tian
TOKYO, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- After the three-year experience of being Japan's main opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) finally returned to power as it grabbed a majority to win the House of Representatives election that ended on Sunday.
However, the victory just means a beginning for the LDP. What the party faces is a Japan of economic stagnancy and political instability, a thorny problem the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has not yet resolved since it swept to power in 2009.
Moreover, the LDP is also confronted with a diplomatic dilemma. For one thing, Japan's relations with neighboring China and South Korea have slid into an abyss. For another, stability in the Northeast Asia has been broken after a recent rocket launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
LONG-LASTING POLITICAL INSTABILITY
Japan's political instability is first featured by frequent changes of prime minister. The changes not only lie in conflicts and compromises between different parties, but are also rooted in different factions within a party. It will directly result in policy interruption.
If the LDP leader, Shinzo Abe, becomes new prime minister, he has to seek balances between parties and within his party so as to maintain his position inside the LDP and as the prime minister.
Another question is Abe's health condition. The former prime minister suddenly quitted from his post for health reason in 2007 and it was regarded as an irresponsible action. If Abe resigned again for the same reason after re-claiming the post, the LDP will undoubtedly suffer a heavy blow for its failure to meet voters' expectations.
However, the fact that the Japanese politics turns conservative can be seen in the election, both from the results and the campaigns ahead of the voting.
For one thing, the winner is a conservative one headed by a hawkish leader. For another, main political parties running for the election are closely related to the conservative LDP.
Shintaro Ishihara, former Tokyo governor, left the LDP and joined the Japan Restoration Party, only to get more supports rather than challenging the LDP. The two parties, however, share a similar political pledge: to revise Japan's constitution.
The latest economic figures indicate that Japan is sliding into an economic recession. Affected by toppled external demand, particularly declines in European and Chinese markets, Japan's export-reliant economy is suffering great pressure. A strong yen also aggravates the situation.
Moreover, an aging society has weakened Japan's domestic demand and contributed to years of deflation. The aging society also boosted the country's expenditure on pensions and welfare benefits, helping swell Japan's public debt nearly twice the size of its gross domestic product.
The LDP has promised to boost the economy through easing monetary policies. However, the Bank of Japan maintains a cautious attitude toward the policy as it has launched rounds of quantitative easing with little effect, while Masaaki Shirakawa, governor of the bank, pursues strict financial and monetary disciplines.
Therefore, it is not easy for the LDP to carry out more easing policies soon. The party should also be aware that excessive monetary easing would put the credit rating of Japan's national bonds at risk.
Another way for the LDP to boost the economy is to increase the consumption tax, which the LDP said will be a choice if the quantitative easing policy does not work. However, high tax levy would slash the public willingness to consume and may encounter strong opposition from the public.
No matter what policies the LDP will carry out, it has to map out a blueprint for the Japanese, making them believe that the LDP could bring tangible profits to them and will not let them down.
The LDP almost continuously played as the ruling party in Japan for more than 50 years. That means the party is much more experienced than the DPJ in dealing with foreign affairs and would be more pragmatic and flexible in foreign policies.
However, the LDP has pledged that it aims at revising the pacifist constitution. It will undoubtedly arouse suspicion over the fast growing East Asia.
Territorial disputes between China and Japan have greatly impacted on bilateral trade as Japan's export to China, its largest trading partner and export market, has tumbled 11.6 percent.
Relations with the United States remain the core of Japan's foreign policies. With the United States' high profile return to the Asian-Pacific region, Japan plays an important part in helping the super power to rebalance the region. For Japan, it also needs protection from the United States under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
Abe has said he will visit the United States soon after he is appointed prime minster, showing his eagerness to improve Japan-U. S. alliance relationship and suggesting he may try to get permit from the United States to revise Japan's pacifist constitution, which was established under U.S. supervision after World War II.
Meanwhile, as more drunken U.S. soldiers committed crimes and offenses in Japan's Okinawa, the LDP has to relieve tensions between U.S. bases and local residents, who are also calling for removal of U.S. bases and its Ospreys.
After the DPRK blasted off its rocket, the regional situation is more complex. Japan has to seek cooperation with China and South Korea to press the DPRK while it is still at odds with the two countries.
The LDP is facing a bumpy road. The party needs to spare no efforts to resolve the country's domestic and diplomatic woes, which may be the only way to help the LDP prevent itself from stepping down.