The first to fall on his sword in the aftermath of the election was LDP Tokyo Metropolitan Branch Chairman Shimomura Hakubun, a close confidant of PM Shinzo Abe and the person responsible for conducting the LDP campaign (during a television interview following the election, Shimomura alluded to comments by Defence Minister Inada and how these may have contributed to the LDP defeat, although he did not lay the blame entirely at Inada’s feet. Others, however, have pointed to a rally attended by PM Abe in Akihabara the day before voting commenced, in which PM Abe, assailed by shouts for him to resign, harangued part of the crowd by first pointing at them and then shouting “There’s no way that we will lose to those people”. Critics later claimed that PM Abe was provoking division when he should be seeking to persuade the citizenry of benefits of his policies).
Perhaps the only party that came out worse for wear from the election than the LDP was the DP, winning just 5 seats. Such a result would ordinarily be fatal for a political party, yet in the current climate expectations are that it won’t have too much of an impact on the DP’s popularity. Indeed the DP may be in for a poll bounce once the Diet resumes and further questions are put to the LDP about PM Abe and the LDP’s links to right-wing educational institutions. In the meantime DP Metropolitan Chairman Matsubara Jin submitted his resignation from that post, and there have been calls for party leader Renho and party secretary, former PM Noda Yoshihiko, to resign, however they have resisted such pressure so far.
So the question now is what does this mean for the Abe government? In the short term it will almost certainly conduct a cabinet reshuffle. The Asahi Shinbun has been examining the appearance fees collected by four members of the LDP who might emerge as a successor to Abe (and who, as a result of Abe’s past popularity, had found it difficult to grab the media’s attention): Ishiba Shigeru, Defence Minister Inada, Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio, and the LDP Agriculture and Forestry Committee chairman Koizumi Shinjirō. However talk of successors is very much speculative, given that Abe is almost assured of being re-elected as party leader in the inter-LDP elections coming up in September. In the meantime the LDP will be doing a fair amount of hansei (反省, often translated as reflection), as we may have just witnessed the first cracks in what was the LDP’s otherwise dominant position in Japanese national politics.