Japan will go to the polls on December 16 to elect the lower House of Representatives, the house that determines who will serve as Japan's next prime minister.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda apparently reached the conclusion that there was nothing to be gained by delaying the election further and perhaps something to be lost, in that it would allow new contenders such as the party led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and Shintaro Ishihara the former governor of Tokyo to gain traction. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), while in the political doldrums, would still prefer the election to be between itself and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The LDP, forced in 2009 into the unusual position of opposition party, leads the DPJ in the polls but it is not overwhelmingly favored by the voters (22% for the LDP and 15% for the DPJ and a whopping 43% still consider themselves undecided).
It will be hard for the DPJ to win the election because of the disenchantment among its electorate, its feuding leadership and the major defections from the party.
An example of the split is reflected by the Trans Pacific Partnership. Prime Minister Noda toyed with contesting the elections on Japan's entry into a free trade agreement and its promise of lower prices for consumers, particularly in terms of agricultural goods. When he tried to persuade members of his party to support the move, he ran into strong opposition and the issue is not part of the party's platform.
This does not mean that the election will lack for major issues between the two major parties. One important issue is nuclear power. While the Fukushima reactor disaster occurred on the DPJ's watch, the conclusion reached by the party was to shut down the Japanese nuclear power industry. T
he pro-business LDP claimed that the shutdown without an adequate alternative was irresponsible. On the economic front, the LDP leader Shinzo Abe has promised to weaken the Japanese yen by unlimited easing and increasing inflation. A weaker yen will increase the competitiveness of Japanese exports and will encourage investors to put their money into the Japanese stock market.
The LDP has also called for increased military spending to keep pace with China. The DPJ is still more dovish than its rivals, but the recent tensions between Japan and China have produced a surprising consensus on the issue and the differences between the parties concern merely the degree to which Japan should push back against China.