Japan has entered the official campaigning phase ahead of the October 31 elections and polls for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) do not look as rosy as they used to. According to national public broadcaster NHK, support for the party was at 38.8 percent as of the past weekend – a swift decline from 41.2 percent one week earlier.
Despite holding on to power tightly in Japan for the majority of the past 65 years and being expected to also win this election, the LDP could suffer substantial losses this time around. Approval ratings of the most recent administrations show that new LDP prime ministers started out with ever-lower approval ratings.
While Shinzo Abe’s approval was at a high of 66 percent when he returned to office in 2013, his successor Yoshihide Suga started out at a slightly lower 62 percent when he took office in 2020 upon Abe’s resignation for health reasons. Current prime minister Fumio Kishida took over from Suga, who lost support for a reelection campaign due to poor crisis management in the coronavirus pandemic and a perceived lack of vision for the country. While Kishida’s initial approval of 49 percent is a step up from the dismal 30 percent Suga left office with, it nevertheless marks a deterioration in the popularity of new LDP leaders. This is especially important when considering that most leaders reach the highest point of their approval rating upon entering office, meaning that having a buffer for sinking approval rates is important.
The long reign of the LDP in Japan has led to election fatigue in Japan, with voter turnout at times approaching only 50 percent in national elections. Concerning the upcoming opening of the polls, 56 percent of Japanese recently said they were planning to cast their vote. Despite the sinking approval of Japan’s ruling party, the main opposition party – the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan – only had the support of 6.6 percent of voters, while those parties that they could form a voting block with had even smaller followings. The Komeito party, normally voting with the LDP, was supported by another 3.9 percent of voters, according to the same poll.