"What takes three years to build can fall apart in a day." This is what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned himself, and what ultimately became reality in the July 2 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.
Candidates from Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's fledgling Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) and other parties supporting the governor won an overwhelming number of seats in the Tokyo assembly in a historical loss for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
As criticism for the Abe administration gained momentum amid the Kake veterinary school scandal and the LDP's railroading of the so-called anti-conspiracy law, the Tokyo assembly race attracted attention for its role as a barometer for how things will be for the LDP in the coming days, weeks and years, more so than its role as a critique of how Gov. Koike has done as governor since she rose to office last summer.
The election results should be viewed as Tokyo voters' blistering objection toward the Abe administration's arrogance and self-conceit resulting from its single-party dominance. That's how incredibly strong a headwind the LDP faced in the election.
Furthermore, blunders made by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada as well as a scandal involving one of LDP lawmakers dubbed "Abe children" in their second term as members of the House of Representatives led to a more hostile environment for the party.
Prime Minister Abe is expected to promptly reshuffle his Cabinet in an effort to turn the situation around, and to display an attitude of humility. However, he must first take stock of the fact that the LDP's heavy handed use of its sheer numbers to silence dissenting voices lies at the core of the public's distrust toward the party.
At the very least, the LDP must heed opposition parties' demands to hold an extraordinary session of the Diet as well as to conduct investigations while the Diet is not in session, and summon witnesses involved in Kake Educational Institution to testify in the Diet about the scandal.
With the huge loss for the LDP in the Tokyo assembly election, the chances that the schedule for constitutional revision that Abe has proposed will be upheld has also become unclear. The prime minister must refrain from ignoring opposition parties and unilaterally pushing forward his agenda.
Tomin First no Kai, led by Tokyo Gov. Koike, attracted votes from those critical of the Abe administration, and emerged as the majority party in the Tokyo assembly just nine months after the party was launched. Gov. Koike has criticized the opacity of the Tokyo assembly, which failed to function as a checking mechanism on the administration of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. However, if the Tokyo assembly's majority party -- comprising members on whose behalf Koike campaigned -- merely serves as an apparatus that approves and confirms everything the governor proposes, little progress will be made in increasing the transparency of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. There must always be a healthy dose of tension between the governor and members of the assembly.
For Prime Minister Abe, who had four consecutive victories in national elections under his belt, the results of the latest Tokyo assembly election is the first major blow he has experienced in a major election since he returned to power in December 2012.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party (DP) not only failed to function as the landing-place of votes from those critical of the LDP administration, its candidates failed to attract attention as the Tokyo assembly race was framed as that between the LDP and Tomin First no Kai.
DP leader Renho is trying to push forward a collaboration with the Japanese Communist Party in the next House of Representatives election, which could take place anytime from now until December 2018. However, a comprehensive review of the latest election will be necessary to determine whether such a move will result in success.