LDP Loses ‘All 3’ By-Elections: Will the Party Be Able to Rebuild Its Weakened Foundation? 

The Liberal Democratic Party has lost a seat in the “conservative kingdom” of Shimane, and the party effectively lost all three by-elections, as it did not run in two constituencies. The LDP’s decline has been highlighted.

How will Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recover amid this critical situation? He will likely have a harder time in managing his administration.

In the three by-elections for Tokyo Constituency No. 15, Shimane Constituency No. 1 and Nagasaki Constituency No. 3 of the House of Representatives, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan won all three seats.

The LDP framed the by-election for Shimane Constituency No. 1, which was called following the death of former lower house Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda, as a “mourning battle.” The prime minister and senior party leaders went to the constituency during the campaign period one after another. However, sympathetic views were apparently not widely shared among voters, as a case was established that the LDP’s Abe faction, which Hosoda served as chairman, violated the Political Funds Control Law.

The LDP’s defeat in Shimane Constituency No. 1, where Hosoda had held onto a seat since the introduction of the single-seat constituency system in 1996, is a major blow to the party.

The by-elections in Tokyo Constituency No. 15 and Nagasaki Constituency No. 3 were called following the resignations of former LDP lawmakers who were involved in scandals, and the LDP did not field candidates, as it saw no chance of winning.

A Yomiuri Shimbun exit poll showed that supporters of the LDP in Tokyo Constituency No. 15 tended to vote for conservative candidates such as ones from Nippon Ishin (the Japan Innovation Party) and the minor Conservative Party of Japan.

Even if such voting behavior was a reluctant choice due to the absence of the LDP, it does not necessarily mean that support for the party will return in the future. It can be said that the LDP’s foundation has weakened as a result of the loss by default.

Support for both the Cabinet and the LDP is sluggish, but the prime minister has expressed confidence in his ability to stay in power. Some observers believe that the lack of growth in support for the opposition parties and the absence of prominent rivals within the LDP have made him optimistic that his administration will not fall.

However, the results of the latest by-elections may cause the political situation to become more fluid.

It may be increasingly argued that the LDP will not be able to battle well under the leadership of Kishida in the next lower house elections. Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii said last month, “The [LDP] president elected in the presidential election will have a high support rating.” This comment is believed to be a call for a change of prime minister through the upcoming LDP presidential election in September.

If the prime minister fails to produce firm results on domestic and foreign issues, including the political funds issue, calls for him to step down from the post will likely intensify.

The fact that the CDPJ was able to win the latest three by-elections must have been due to the “enemy’s failures.” The CDPJ’s momentum will not continue unless the party refines its policies and steadily increases its supporters.

During the campaign period in Tokyo Constituency No. 15, a candidate from a minor party and his campaign staffers engaged in acts that can be seen as harassment. They made loud noises during campaign rallies of other candidates and chased campaign vehicles around.

Interference with a fair election is unacceptable. Charges of obstructing freedom of elections under the Public Offices Election Law should be considered in the case of such actions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2024)