Koizumi rocks Japan vote
The hip, charismatic, reformist Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won an overwhelming victory in yesterday's parliamentary elections, as his Liberal Democratic Party* won 296 of the 480 contested seats in the lower house of the Diet. Including the seats of the parliamentary allies in the Komeito (Clean Government) Party, the LDP now commands a 2/3 legislative majority, enough to overcome obstructionism. See Washington Post. Since I've become a hardened skeptic of Japan's capacity to enact substantial reforms after seeing past such efforts crash and burn, I'll wait and see.
* As I used to tell my classes, the "Liberal Democratic Party" is like the "Holy Roman Empire": It is neither liberal nor democratic nor a real party, but just a loose amalgam of factions with a vested interest in preserving the business-dominated status quo. After the financial crises of the early 1990s, a large portion of the LDP broke away and formed a new party.
Mubarak mocks Egypt vote
As expected, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak won "reelection" by a landslide, but those results probably don't mean much since thugs working for his official party had been repressing political opponents, and may have been tampering with ballot boxes. Some observers would call Mubarak's regime hypocritical in its feeble pretense at upholding free democratic norms, while others would say that going to all that trouble just to placate pro-democracy critics is itself a sign that democratic norms are carrying at least some weight. That is a good example of the old adage of "Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." The U.S. government will have to tread carefully in reacting to this election, because the Bush foreign policy has become so strongly focused on promoting democracy in the Islamic world. Either praise or criticism could backfire by angering nationalist forces. Oddly, the Carter Center has not been monitoring the Egyptian electoral process, although they have been paying a lot of attention to Liberia lately.