Japanese voters staged a “quiet revolution,” said Daniel Sneider in The Washington Post, sweeping out the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and ending almost 50 years of conservative one-party rule. This is more than “a simple shift in power” to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan; it’s the beginning of a competitive, two-party democracy. No one in Japan is actually looking for “radical change,” but “this revolution, like any, carries risks.”
Maybe the biggest is whether the “untested DPJ is ready for prime time,” said Jeff Kingston in Foreign Policy. Despite the party’s “landslide victory,” it appears the Japanese “voted for change they don’t believe in and for a DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama, they aren’t all that crazy about.” Clearly this was more a vote against the LDP and its “dead-end policies” than an embrace of the Democrats’ vague, unpopular agenda.
Hatoyama’s “audacity of ambiguous ‘change’” will probably disappoint, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The DPJ, like the LDP, wants to protect Japan’s farm lobby, shield smaller businesses from competition, and reshuffle “public handouts.” And where Hatomaya does depart from the LDP—“public attacks on capitalism,” distancing Japan from the U.S., viewing China’s dominance in Asia as “inevitable”—it’s less than promising.
The DPJ’s “seismic” win probably will put more daylight between the U.S. and Japan, said Daniel Larison in The Week, but that “may be a blessing in disguise.” A more independent Japan will allow the U.S. to redeploy our much-needed troops stationed in Japan, and its distinct foreign policies may even act as a brake on our more “misguided enthusiasms,” such as the Iraq War.