Japan's Communist Party celebrates winning 21 seats in recent elections
For the first time in 14 years, the party wins double-digit representation. Analysts and experts agree that its staunch and consistent opposition to the Abe government has paid off. For party leader Kazuo Shii, "Together with the people, we will further push this administration to the edge."

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - For the first time in 14 years, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) secured double-digit representation in the lower house of parliament. The party, which has a long and troubled history, can now count 21 members.

Analysts and experts agree that the JCP fared well because of its vigorous opposition to Shinzo Abe's government "at a time when other parties and leaders are combining and separating again".

For party leader Kazuo Shii, the public backed the JCP because it was vigorous in its attacks on the government in the run-up to the vote.

Last Sunday's elections came two years ahead of time because the premier sought to win support for his controversial economic policies, dubbed 'Abenomics', which consists of public spending and a more pro-active self-defence posture.

The outgoing coalition also sought a fresh mandate in order to have the legitimacy to restart nuclear power plants, which were shut down after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Voters chose Abe and his ruling coalition, giving them a clear parliamentary majority so that they govern comfortably in the coming years. However, their victory is more a function of the high number of voters staying away from polling stations and dissatisfaction with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan than support for the party itself.

That said, the JCP's 21 seats are a significant result. "I think the Communist Party's full-scale confrontation with the Abe administration and its stance of presenting counterproposals were appreciated by the voters," Shii said in a press conference late on Sunday.

"Both on economic and diplomatic issues, our pledges have been well received by the public," Shii added. And "Together with the people, we will further push this administration to the edge."

"For some, this was a protest vote," said Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Meiji University. "But at the same time, people actually admire the JCP because it has political principles, and it does not compromise on them".

On Abe's specific reforms, the Communists are staunchly against reinterpreting Art. 9 of the Constitution to allow Japan to extend its the right to self-defence. They are equally opposed to restarting nuclear plants.

But there is more to it. "As well as their policies, I think the party gets support because it is consistent at a time when other parties and leaders are combining and separating again," Ito added. For many voters, "They are principled and refuse to get involved in coalitions".

The Japanese Communist Party was founded in 1922, but was immediately outlawed and remained so until after World War Two. During this period, many of its members were jailed because of the party's opposition to Japan's imperialist policies, like the occupation of Korea and Taiwan and its aggression against China,

After 1945, it became a full-fledged player in Japan's political life, but failed to win many votes, partly because it resisted the influence of both Moscow and Beijing.

After some electoral success in the seventies, its vote dropped to under 7 per cent in the 2011 election.

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