Japan is often referenced when talking about their "Lost Decade" in the 1990s, a time when growth stagnated and economic activity flatlined. For ten years. And after that, the ruling party was STILL in power. So when the opposition party actually captures control of the government in the Land of the Rising Sun, it's a big deal.
Japan's opposition swept to a historic victory in elections Sunday, crushing the ruling conservative party that has run the country for most of the postwar era and assuming the daunting task of pulling the economy out of its worst slump since World War II.
A grim-looking Prime Minister Taro Aso conceded defeat just a couple hours after polls had closed, suggesting he would quit as president of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.
"The results are very severe," Aso said. "There has been a deep dissatisfaction with our party."
Unemployment and deflation — and an aging, shrinking population — have left families fearful of what the future holds.
Fed up with the LDP, voters turned overwhelmingly to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which ran a populist-leaning platform with plans for cash handouts to families with children and expanding the social safety net.
"This is a victory for the people," said Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democrats and almost certainly Japan's next prime minister. "We want to build a new government that hears the voices of the nation."
The new party plans for real economic stimulus and appears to be far more interested in reversing the effects of climate change. It looks like the Democratic agenda includes practically everything but the kitchen sink, so there are bound to be disappointments. But they actually have a two-thirds majority needed in their lower House to pass bills (I'm thinking about Japan's perpetual economic troubles, and the similarity to California, based mainly on that process obstacle).
Meanwhile, here's a look at Japan's health care system, among the best in the world (though lifestyle plays a big role in that).
...interesting op-ed from the likely new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, arguing for a new progressive economic structure and not "unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism, that are void of morals or moderation, in order to protect the finances and livelihoods of our citizens."