The key result of the lower house election in Japan on Sunday was not the landslide victory of the Liberal Democratic Party over the governing Democratic Part of Japan and the Richard Nixon-like return of Abe Shinzo as prime minister. It was the record low turnout of registered voters. Fewer than 60 percent of Japan’s registered voters bothered to cast ballots, a drop of more than 10 percent from 2009, when the last national lower house election was held.
Sunday’s poll was the third consecutive landslide since 2005. Rather than ensure stable government, though, the nation’s governance has been swinging wildly between parties that rotate prime ministers at a rate of one per year, and whose governments have formed new cabinets even more frequently. The LDP emerged from a field in which 12 parties competed, and in which the so-called “third force” confronting the LDP and DPJ was itself divided into three uneasy pieces. “Abe 2.0” will be Japan’s seventh prime minister in six years. He will form Japan’s 11th cabinet in that same period. It is not surprising that so many Japanese voters seem so indifferent to the choices put before them.