James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Japan Elects a Parliament; South Korea Chooses a President, Egypt Decides on a Constitution, and the U.S. Electoral College Votes

by James M. Lindsay
December 14, 2012

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe shows a leaflet from the party's campaign during a news conference in Tokyo (Kyodo/ Courtesy Reuters). Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe shows a leaflet from the party's campaign during a news conference in Tokyo (Kyodo/ Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Japan’s parliamentary elections; South Korea’s presidential election; Egypt’s constitutional referendum; and the Electoral College vote for the U.S. president and vice president.

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The highlights:

  • Japanese voters go to the polls on December 16 to elect a new parliament. Incumbent Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called the snap elections in the face of growing public dissatisfaction with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had its lock on Japanese politics broken by the DPJ just three years ago, is favored to win big. If so, look for LDP leader Shinzo Abe to become prime minister, a post he held for a year back in 2006-07. Abe pledges to get Japan’s moribund economy rolling again, but he may make an even bigger impact on foreign policy. He has campaigned on a nationalist agenda, which could heighten tensions with Beijing over the Senkaku (Diaoyou) islands and with Seoul over Japan’s war crimes during World War II.
  • South Koreans have their turn at the ballot box on December 19. The country’s sixth presidential election pits Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri (New Frontier Party) against Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party. Park is the daughter of a former Korean president. Her mother was assassinated by a North Korean agent, and she effectively served as the country’s first lady during her father’s final five years in office. Saenuri is a successor party to incumbent President Lee Myung-bak’s Grand National Party, but Park and President Lee aren’t on good terms. Moon is a close confident of former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. Whoever wins next week will have to confront a North Korea that showed this week that it is mastering the basics of building intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • Egyptians vote this weekend in a referendum on a draft constitution. The vote comes on the heels of the decree that President Mohammed Morsi issued on November 22 giving himself near dictatorial powers. Morsi rescinded most of that decree in the face of fierce public criticism, some of which came from his colleagues within the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi nonetheless pushed the drafting of the constitution to a quick finish and a quick vote. Some of Morsi’s critics are talking about boycotting the referendum, which undoubtedly means that they know that they don’t have the votes to defeat it. A referendum victory will hardly solve Morsi’s political problems. He still needs to get Egypt’s faltering economy moving again, something that the country’s political instability makes all the harder to do.
  • The electors who make up the U.S. Electoral College will convene in their states on December 17 to submit their votes for president and vice president. The official count will be made on January 6, 2013—two weeks before Inauguration Day. The outcome of the vote count is not in doubt—Barack Obama will be formally elected to his second term. However, the policy consequences of the election do remain to be determined. Democrats argue that the election gives Obama a mandate to govern. But House Republicans argue that they too have a mandate from the voters who elected them, and that mandate is very different from the president’s. That is why there is a fair chance that the United States goes over the fiscal cliff come January 1 even while national polls says that most Americans would prefer that it didn’t.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is six. My Figure of the Week is Cheick Modibo Diarra. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Japan votes in parliamentary elections: BBC News writes that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan face an uphill battle in the upcoming elections. The International Institute for Strategic Studies argues that next week’s elections will not solve Japan’s problem of political volatility. Euro Investor questions whether the parliamentary elections are “ill-timed”  given the state of the Japanese economy. Business Insider explains why anyone who takes an interest in economics should follow the Japanese elections.

South Koreans elect their next president: Reuters argues that while Park Geun-hye would be the first female president of South Korea, her win would do little to break the country’s glass ceiling. The Diplomat warns that while Korean voters are primarily concerned with the economy, the next president will have to face tough foreign policy issues as well. Yonhap New Agency writes that effect of the recent rocket launch in North Korea on the South’s presidential election remains unclear. Channel News Asia suggests that any increase in voters’ security concerns would help conservative candidate Park Geun-hye.

Egypt holds a constitutional referendum: BBC News provides a chronological report that tracks shifts in political power in Egypt and questions where the power really lies. Reuters writes that President Morsi’s opponents may boycott the constitutional referendum. The Washington Post reports that the Carter Center will be unable to observe the vote on the referendum because of the late release of rules for monitors. Egypt Independent provides an English translation of Egypt’s draft constitution.

The Electoral College finalizes the presidential election: The official website of the Electoral College provides an outline of the meeting’s procedures as well as important dates in the voting process. The U.S. Courts official website explains the lesser known role of the federal trial courts in the Electoral College voting process. The Washington Post provides a breakdown of electoral votes in this year’s presidential election and argues that the current numbers give the Democratic Party an “electoral college edge.”

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