Although the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party lost the parlimentary majority it has enjoyed for 20 years, Sunday's, election--which may unseat Prime Minister Takeo Miki--will probably not affect Japanese policy, experts on Japan said yesterday.
"Miki's days are numbered." Edwin O. Reischauer, director of the Japan Institute and University Professor, said, noting that the party leader often falls following poor election results.
Ezra R. Vogel, director of the East Asian Center and professor of Sociology, said Miki's probable replacement, Takeo Fukuda, has greater party support than Miki but will not represent a major policy change.
Although the Liberal Democrats received only 249 of the 256 seats needed for a majority, reischauer said he expects the 21 independents and 17 Liberal Club members elected to cooperate with the larger party. He added that with the additional support, the Liberal Democrats have the 271 seats they need to maintain comfortable control of house committees.
The election's overall movement was toward the center, Reischauer said, adding that Liberal Democrats and the Japanese Communist Party both lost substantially, while less extreme groups such as the Liberal Club, the Japanese Socialist Party and the Komeito, or "clean government" party, all gained.
Reischauer said although it is unlikely that any of these groups will take over the position of the slipping Liberal Democratic Party, he predicted a breakup of that party within the next five years and its replacement by a center coalition.
Craig noted that a party breakup could be precipitated if Miki decides to leave the party and take his supporters with him rather than accept deposition.
Vogel said the independents' support for the larger party is not unusual, because the Liberal Democrats endorse only incumbents. Young party members often run as independents, announcing their membership after the election.
He added that the Liberal Club is a recent liberal offshoot of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party. But he said it does not differ radically from its parent party, which facilitates cooperation.
Seventeen of 25 Liberal Club candidates were elected, a result Reischauer called "phenomenal."
Albert M. Craig, professor of Japanese History, said the election was a "slap on [the larger party's] wrist" by Japanese voters, who support Liberal Democratic policies but do not want to vote for its members because the party was associated with the Lockheed scandal this summer.
In general, however, the Lockheed affair had little effect on the election, Reischauer said. Vogel noted that former Prime Minister Tanaka, who was indicted in the Lockheed proceedings, was re-elected by a wide margin in his district, while Osamu Inaba, the chief prosecutor of the hearings, won in his, but by only a very slight margin