While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) scored an overwhelming victory in the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election, the absolute ratio of votes the party actually garnered stood at a mere 25.2 percent, about the same level as that in the 2009 general election which unseated the LDP, it has been learned.
The absolute ratio of votes represents the proportion of the number of votes a party won in single-seat constituencies to the voting-age population, and is said to represent the real strength of a party as the ratio is not dependent on voter turnout. The LDP's absolute ratio of votes has remained almost unchanged in the four lower house elections since 2009.
While the LDP has clinched three consecutive victories in general elections since 2012 under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and has maintained over 60 percent of seats in what is now the 465-seat lower chamber, it cannot necessarily be said that the party's strength has increased since 2009.
The LDP's absolute ratio of votes hovered around 22 to 25 percent between the 1996 lower house election, when the election system combining single-seat constituencies with proportional representation blocs was introduced, and the 2003 poll. In the 2005 general election, where the privatization of postal services became a focal point of contention, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi successfully attracted unaffiliated voters, pushing up the LDP's absolute ratio of votes to 32 percent and bringing 296 seats to the LDP.
However, the party's absolute ratio of votes obtained has since returned to previous levels, with the proportion standing at 26 percent in the 2009 general election, which drastically reduced the LDP's seats to 119, and slightly over 24 percent in the 2012 and 2014 general elections under the leadership of Abe, which was even below the 2009 level.
Despite the low ratio of acquired votes, the LDP managed to win 294 seats in the 2012 lower house election and 291 seats in the 2014 general election. In those two elections, voter turnout was a little over 50 percent, plunging from the 60 percent range in the 2005 and 2009 general elections. The declining voter turnout and flagging popularity of opposition parties apparently worked in favor of the LDP in its election successes.
"It's not like our party has won overwhelming support," said an LDP official, warning against elation over the party's sweeping victory in the Oct. 22 general election.