Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Looking forward to 2010

It's Tuesday and the new year work-week has begun. Oh, technically it began yesterday - and I was toiling away at work, like a good little scientist - but half the businesses were still closed and the morning train was empty enough that I got a seat at once. Today, though, it's all back to business as normal.

What do we have to look forward to with this new, shiny still-has-that-new-year-smell 2010? Politically we have the Japanese upper house elections in July, and we have the Swedish parliamentary elections in September.

In Japan the ruling DPJ hopes to get an outright majority in the upper house, of course, so they don't have to tiptoe around their small allies in the current government. Will they get it? It's hard to say. They've been making decent moves on some issues (they're floating a proposal to loosen the bizarre restrictions on campaigning online, for instance) but rather messing up other things such as the future location of US bases in Okinawa1.

They've had some interesting approaches to dealing with their more boneheaded election promises. The promise to abolish highway tolls - going against the premise of their financing and against any environmental goals - is in practice a removal of tolls this year only, and excepting some of the most heavily trafficked areas. The "gasoline surcharge" will be removed - but immediately replaced with an environmental tax instead.

Both Ozawa and Hatoyama are still parading in the headlines almost daily due to their "fundraising irregularities", something for which the LDP is assuredly eternally grateful.

Nevertheless, the DPJ government still has a majority approval in opinion polls even in the most rabidly anti-DPJ newspapers. I think the election really is a matter of whether the voters see the current mess as teething problems, or deep-seated incompetence. And of course, the alternative is the LDP which has yet to give anybody a reason to vote for them again after their collapse last August.

In Sweden there's parliamentary elections on the 19th of September. The current center-right coalition government has done a decent job overall, but is down in the polls. The center-left opposition is well ahead, and the betting money would be on them forming the next government.

However, the coalitions are none too stable, and two new, small parties could upset the election results. The Pirate Party is concerned with information freedom, intellectual property reform and the right of privacy on the net and off; they got two Swedish seats in the European parliament last year. The neonazi-related xenophobic Sweden Democrats has yet to encounter a problem you can't solve by getting rid of immigrants, Muslims, Jews, gays, liberals and atheists. Charming bunch.

If - as it's now likely - the Sweden Democrats gain seats in the parliament, it may create a very interesting2 situation where any coalition would be dead set on avoiding becoming dependent on them, while at the same time not creating an impression of subverting the election results by shutting out a duly elected party.

Both elections promise to be moderately interesting to follow.

#1 It doesn't help that the US is rather unsubtly trying to intimidate Japan into obedience, completely ignoring how that plays out in public. And they're not even doing small gestures to make any accommodation easier. It's not the bases themselves as much as small related things that mostly seem to rankle people, and the US could probably get most of what it wanted simply by addressing them.

For instance, Japan is apparently spending a chunk of defence money to maintain a golf course for US servicemen, something few people would argue to be essential for the protection of the country. The US could easily make a gesture out of it by agreeing to pick up the cost of such perks (and never mind that the money still would come from Japan indirectly).

#2 In a "may you live in interesting times" kind of sense.


  1. Dear Janne!
    Of course you forgot the most important event ever! But who would expect you to remember our princess.

    Yours Truly
    P Björne

  2. Heh, I had to actually search the net to figure out what you meant. Let's say a wedding among the idle classes is not exactly a top priority in my life - and not in yours either, other than for the entertainment value in mocking it ruthlessly ^_^

    Happy New Year!

  3. Well, you don't have to live with the tabloid press in Sweden ... you certainly wouldn't need to search for information then. Not even you!


  4. Happy New Year, Janne. Don't forget there are elections expected in Britain too, though there too the results are foregone. Screw interesting times.


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