Many voters said that although the Democrats are largely untested in power and doubts remain about whether they will be able to deliver on their promises, the country needs a change. "We don't know if the Democrats can really make a difference, but we want to give them a chance," Junko Shinoda, 59, a government employee, said after voting at a crowded polling center in downtown Tokyo. - AP Report Japanese election upends long-ruling party
The Japanese people culturally do not like change so it is very dramatic to see them vote out the LDP after 54 years of continuous rule. The electorate did send a strong signal in the 2003 elections when there was a significant swing to the opposition Democratic Party. However, bogged down by entrenched vested interests the efforts to bring about change foundered. It was more about the LDP getting thrown out than a viable vision of change from the Democratic Party. The Japanese people are well educated and they are not so easily swayed by the Democrats which embraced a more populist platform, promising handouts for families with children and farmers, a higher minimum wage, and to rebuild the economy. The Japanese govt has an enormous public debt to tackle spending more money and giving more handouts is a promise that is hard to keep. The Japanese have simply lost patience with the LDP and they know that change will be limited given LDP is contrained by its pro-business and conservative ideology.
Japan's main problems are its ageing population and export-oriented economy highly dependent on external demand. Even though the Democratic Party is going for change and very determined to solve these problems, it will not adopted short term, short sighted and easy solutions like opening the floodgates to foreigners just to fix the demographics. They know that importing people in a large scale will cause overcrowding, cost of living to rise and wages to be depressed. The income gap in Japan is already widening and going for such short sighted solutions will hurt a large segment of the population. The Democratic Party has proposed to ease the burden of families having children by promising to US$275 a month per child through junior high to boost the fertility rate. There is only one way to fix the Japanese economy - boost domestic economy[Link]. The export oriented model is dependent on foreign demand which is slumping and faces intense competition from developing countries. Due to the competition, Japanese exporters have been relocating their factories to cheaper countries causing unemployment to soar to 5.7%. They need to deregulate and reform policies that hinder competition to encourage growth in domestic industries something the LDP couldn't do due to entrenched interests.
It is not clear if the new govt in Japan will succeed or fail. What is clear is they will give alternative ideas a try and that is good enough for the Japanese people who are fed up with the LDP's inability to implement meaningful changes. Some credit has to be given to the LDP for not resorting to undemocratic and unfair tactics to remain in power to preserve the status quo - they did not tinker with the electoral system, change the constitution, repress their opponents, control the media and remove the freedom of ordinary citizens to assemble and speak.